Drawing from Life
In late February, the National Portrait Gallery in London opens David Hockney: Drawing from Life. As a career-long survey of drawings from private and public collections worldwide, it demonstrates Hockney’s extensive exploration into various media, from early collages and delicate colored-pencil portraits, to more recent charcoal sketches and brightly hued digital drawings. Drawing from Life’s particular focus on portraiture centers on Hockney’s representations of certain close companions over the decades: his longtime muse, the textile designer Celia Birtwell; curator Gregory Evans; master printer Maurice Payne; and the artist’s mother, Laura Hockney. The fifth fascinating sitter to be highlighted is Hockney himself, in scrutinizing self-portraits that date as far back as his teenage years. Reviewing the retrospective in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones writes: “Hockney here is not a star but a stare. . . . The intensity of Hockney’s self-inspection, fag in mouth, bears comparison with Rembrandt.” Celia Birtwell, reflecting on Hockney’s many portraits of her since the late 1960s, notes: “We only ever see ourselves in the mirror, we never ever see how we really are. He sees you as you really are.” The exhibition travels to New York, to the Morgan Museum and Library, in Fall 2020.
“You have to look and ask questions … about what you are seeing all the time. Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory—where it stays—it’s transmitted by your hands.”
“I think the way I draw, the more I know and react to people, the more interesting the drawings will be. I don’t like really struggling for a likeness. It seems a bit of a waste of effort. … If you don’t know the person, you don’t really know if you’ve got a likeness at all. I think it takes quite a long time.”
My Parents and Myself, On View
In conjunction with Drawing From Life, the National Portrait Gallery displays, for the first time in public, My Parents and Myself. This abandoned painting from 1975–76 is a precursor to one of Hockney’s most beloved works, My Parents, completed in 1977 and now in the collection of Tate Britain. The earlier painting includes a self-portrait, seen as a reflection in the mirror situated between Mr. and Mrs. Hockney. Hockney admits he held onto My Parents and Myself, keeping it in his LA studio despite his frustrations, because “It was, after all, painted from life. And my parents aren’t here now.”
“I was never truly satisfied, nor was I satisfied with it as a portrait of them. … So I had to struggle on. Now I might have abandoned it had it not been my parents.”
Video Brings Its Time to You…
At Annely Juda Fine Art in London, concurrent with the drawing retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, the show David Hockney: Video Brings Its Time to You, You Bring Your Time to Paintings and Drawings presents his diverse production across various media over the past decade. It includes recent portraits of Margaret Hockney, the artist’s sister; Scarlett Clark, the granddaughter of Celia Birtwell; and musician friends including Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. Two video works, Woldgate Woods, Winter (2010) and Seven Yorkshire Landscapes (2011)—shot using multiple cameras on a moving vehicle—fill the gallery with multiscreen views of the English countryside as a changing landscape. The show also features several of Hockney’s 2018 photographic drawings, made as composite arrangements of various sitters in his Los Angeles studio.
The publisher Taschen releases a limited edition of Hockney’s artist’s book My Window, a portfolio of 120 iPhone and iPad drawings of the view from the window of his Yorkshire home, drawn between 2009 - 2012.
- David Hockney: Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery, London (Feb 27–Jun 28); travels to the Morgan Library and Museum (Oct 2, 2020–May 30, 2021); catalogue with text by Sarah Howgate.
- David Hockney: Video Brings Its Time to You, You Bring Your Time to Paintings and Drawings, Annely Juda Fine Art, London (Feb 28– July 31); catalogue.
- David Hockney, My Window, London: Taschen.