Exhibition: David Hockney at the Tate Britain 

I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed an exhibition more than the recent David Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain. It spanned a period of 60 years of creating, as he approached his 80th birthday he’s amazingly still learning new technology and has replaced his sketchbook now entirely with an ipad!

This exhibition shows how the roots of each new direction lay in the work that came before (Tate Britain, 2017a)

I tried to make some notes on my way around the exhibition, which I’ve supplemented with the supplied room guide (picture above). I actually bought the catalogue too.

Room One: PLAY WITHIN A PLAY

intro room:

I felt that this was the introduction room for those who don’t know Hockneys work. Probably so you don’t launch straight into room 2, which is probably the less interesting one in the show (at least I thought so). After this intro room the show progresses mostly chronologically. It also allows the show to come full circle as some works in the last room of the exhibition relate to those in this room. Showing, through the exhibition Hockneys subtle use of repeating themes. This room sets the scene for the rest, setting the viewer thinking about how Hockney questions the conventions of picture making and illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface. It’s quite clever curation.

Play Within a Play 1963

David Hockney – Play Within A Play, 1963
oil on canvas and plexi, 72×78 in. © David Hockney

Inspired by the image of his friend John Kasmin, pressing himself against the glass door of the gallery, this large painting plays with illusion, reality of 3D space with theatrical panache. Kasmin is painted on the canvas standing with his back against a tapestry backdrop/curtain in a tiny space, with a chair next to him. A plexi-glass sheet is a few inches in front of the canvas with his pressed hands and body imprinted on that so what appears real is an illusion and what appears to be an illusion is actually there. Clearly inspired by Domenichino’s Apollo killing the Cyclops, 1616-18 from the National Gallery (below). Hockney has a vast understanding and appreciation of art history (I’m still reading his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters) so it’s unsurprising that he would take an old Fresco as his starting point here. Similarly with 4 Blue Stools, 2014 (also in the room), Hockney is playing with illusion of space and reality. Here he’s using stitched together digital photos to create a scene which on first glance looks real but is actually impossible.

Domenichino and assistants, 1581 – 1641, Apollo killing the Cyclops
1616-18, Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board, 316.3 x 190.4 cm
Bought, 1958. NG6290, This painting is part of the group: ‘Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes’ (NG6284-NG6291), https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6290
David Hockney – Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975, Oil on canvas, 6′ x 60 1/8″ (182.9 x 152.7 cm)
Gift of the artist, J. Kasmin, and the Advisory Committee Fund

Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975

The title refers to John Kirby’s 1754 pamphlet on linear perspective, cleverly illustrated by William Hogarth with his engraving Satire on False Perspective. The inscription of which reads

Whoever makes a DESIGN without the Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE will be liable to such Absurdities as are shewn in this Frontispiece (Hogarth).

Throughout the exhibition it becomes obvious that Hockney is obsessed with issues pertaining to the convention of one-point perspective, so it’s no wonder he remade this parody of false perspective. This is another example where the scene, which on first glance looks real, is actually impossible. I’m not sure of the significance of the stand-in of Michelangelo’s David, presumably some sort of artistic in-joke.

William Hogarth – Satire on False Perspective, 1754, Engraving

Model with Unfinished Self-Portrait 1977

David Hockney – Self-Portrait With Blue Guitar, 1977
oil on canvas, 60×72 in. © David Hockney

I didn’t realise at the time but just rereading the title here and the blurb from the exhibition room guide, the figure of Hockney in this one is actually a picture within a picture. It’s the unfinished “Self-Portrait with a blue guitar”, 1977. And the curtain in both paintings looks to be the curtain attached to yet another, unseen painting on an easel behind the sleeping figure of Hockneys boyfriend.

David Hockney – Model With Unfinished Self-Portrait, 1977
oil on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney

Rubber Ring Floating in a Swimming Pool 1971

I think of all the paintings in the first room this was my favourite. A witty take on abstract art, which is blasted once you read the title and cannot unsee the realistic representation.

David Hockney – Rubber Ring Floating In a Swimming Pool, 1971
acrylic on canvas, 36×48 in. © David Hockney

Room two: DEMONSTRATIONS OF VERSATILITY

David Hockney – The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961, oil on canvas, 68×60 1/2 in. © David Hockney

Early work. This room, of all the rooms, I found the least interesting, because it’s the least Hockney-esk. This room showed works from his early years at art school, where he was showing off his art prowess and trying on different styles. As he noted, ‘I deliberately set out to prove I could do four entirely different sorts of picture like Picasso.

Although I did like The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961 and some of the ones with Graffiti in them.

 

Initially, Hockney experimented with abstraction, making a small group of free-flowing paintings in which symbols of personal desire began to emerge. As his interest in different pictorial conventions and concepts of space developed, he employed graffiti, cryptic codes, phallic shapes and freehand writing to suggest themes of sex and love. Here, child-like scrawled bodies, identified by numbers corresponding to letters of the alphabet, are situated in areas of spatial ambiguity, offering recognisable representation while drawing attention to formal qualities such as texture and brushwork. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room three: PAINTINGS WITH PEOPLE IN

David Hockney – Domestic Scene, Los Angeles 1963, oil on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney
David Hockney – California Art Collector, 1964
acrylic on canvas, 60×72 in. © David Hockney

Largely based on his first exhibition, Paintings with People In, at the Kasmin Gallery in London in 1963. A few from his series Domestic Scenes, celebrating longer term gay relationships with portraits of the domesticity between couples. The paintings from this point start to be more observational.

Illusion and artifice remained a strong feature of his work of this period, typified by paintings including a curtain. The curtain frames the passage of light, identifying the stage of Hockney’s painting as a theatre of representation. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

The hypnotist 1963. I love the ‘rays’ from the hypnotist’s fingers zapping towards the other figure and the way the figures are so near the edges of the frame with the massive space between them.

David Hockney – The hypnotist 1963. © David Hockney

Room four: SUNBATHER

From 1964, Hockney lived in his ‘promised land’ of Los Angeles. The images in this room reflect his sunny outlook where he found inspiration in the outside spaces, geometric office blocks, patterns in swimming pools and gardens. These are possible what he’s best well known for.

I love the simplicity in A lawn being sprinkled 1967. I enjoyed being able to see in person how crisp those lines are of the jets of water, and how the lawn texture is built up (you cannot really glean this from a picture) and how the lawn and sprinklers seems to come out at you whilst the grey building behind recedes. I could almost hear the sound of sprinklers when I stood before this painting.

David Hockney – A Lawn Being Sprinkled, 1967
acrylic on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney

A bigger splash 1967

Unlike Britain, swimming pools aren’t seen as a luxury in California and they feature heavily in Hockney’s work around this time. So much has been written about this painting it’s hard to know where to start. I love that he said the part that took the longest to paint was the splash when in reality the splash is the most transient part of the painting. Todo: further reading links: here, here and audio here.

Hockney’s laboriously painted splash might be seen as a dig at the macho spontaneity associated with abstract expressionism (Tate Britain, 2017b)

A Bigger Splash 1967 David Hockney born 1937 Purchased 1981 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03254

Sunbather 1966

He was obsessed with how to depict transparency, of glass and especially of constantly moving water. I didn’t realise that the patterns in the water are from the painted pattern on the bottom of patterned until I saw some photographs of it (later in the exhibition). I thought they were stylistic references to sun glitter but they convey the feeling of the motion of the pool either way. Futurist tendancies Mr Hockney?

David Hockney – Sunbather 1966, © David Hockney

Man in the shower in Beverly Hills. 1964

David Hockney – Man in Shower in Beverly Hills 1964, Purchased 1980, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03074
© David Hockney

Hockney has said: ‘For an artist the interest in showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three hundred year old tradition of the bather as a subject in painting.’ (Tate, 2017c)

Savings and loan building 1967: Abstract art was dominant at this time and in typical witty Hockney fashion he satirises this by representing observed, realistic looking office building as a modernist grid style.

David Hockney – Savings and loan building 1967
© David Hockney

Room five: TOWARDS NATURALISM

Towards the end of the 1960s, naturalistic representations of the human figure became a key element in Hockney’s work. Drawn to the psychological and emotional implications of two figures within enclosed settings, Hockney worked directly from a circle of friends and acquaintances in a series of double portraits that capture their intimate and often complex relationships. Near life-sized, these carefully staged compositions combine informal poses and settings with the grandeur and formality of traditional portraiture. Almost all these works are painted in acrylic, which dries quickly and cannot be scraped off the canvas, thus demanding a greater degree of planning and meticulous application. This process, with its greater capacity for scrutiny and observation, meant that Hockney could work from photographic studies to sketch out overall compositions but he chose to paint his figures from life. (Tate,2017b)

I loved this room. Here I show them in chronological order, except the first, which I remember seeing first in this gallery, fresh from the sunny swimming pools to serious contemplation on art history, was this intentional curation to emphasis the varied nature of Hockneys interests?

Looking at Pictures on a Screen 1977
Henry Geldzahler studying reproductions of historic paintings in Hockney’s studio. I thought this must be the start of the ‘great wall’ of images that Hockney gathered together for his thesis and book Secret Knowledge? Interesting to see the seat, for viewing the picture he is gazing at. I wondered why not have them all on one wall so you can sit in one place and look to see which one you want? I wondered how much of this was staged.

David Hockney – Looking At Pictures On A Screen, 1977
oil on canvas, 74×74 in. © David Hockney

I love his series of double portraits. As I discovered when researching the Arnofini Portrait, a double portrait is a complex thing. With one person in a portrait, the artists wants to capture the likeness/personality of the sitter, his or her relationship to their surroundings, and to their relationship to the viewer. For a double portrait he has to think about all that for two sitters, plus the relationship between them.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970–71

David Hockney – Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, 1970 – 71
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

Fashion designer Ossie Clark and textile designer Celia Birtwell with their cat in their Notting Hill home shortly after their wedding (where Hockney was best man).

This is much larger than I imagined. Hockney really must have laid the acrylic paint on thickly here because can hardly see the texture of the canvas at all, the surface is completely smooth. He’s made things hard for himself here by situating them against the light. Usually in his double portrait paintings, one of them is looking at the other (to create a “cyclical movement of looking” (Tate, 2017d), see the two others below), here both figures stare out at the viewer, as with the Arnolfini portrait (AP), the viewer feels like a third person in the room, as though you’ve just walked in they both turn to look at you. Perhaps they couldn’t agree on who should look at whom, it is a power play? Percy, the cat looking out of the window from Ossie’s lap, takes the place of the little dog from the AP, but whereas the dog represented fidelity, the cat has “symbolic resonances of the libertine and somebody who disregards rules and does as they please” (Tate, 2017d). This is sort of reflected in Ossie’s relaxed seated pose too. Oh Dear. Celia’s pose looks more guarded, and her expression almost rueful. His expression seems very serious. His bare feet are buried in the rug, and as with the AP, Celias long dress covers hers entirely. Traditionally lillies were symbol of the Annunciation and feminine purity, they sit in the foreground close to her. Hockney has reversed one of the conventions of wedding portraiture by having the man seated while the woman stands, and the two figures are separated by the large open window, perhaps Hockney subconciously picked up signed that their marriage wouldnt last right from the beginning? If Hockney was drawing some parallel between the two paintings he may have also got a kick out of the fact that this was their bedroom but doesn’t look like it, and the AP is not their bedroom but everyone thinks it is (because of the bed)!

Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 1968
English novelist and playwright Christopher Isherwood (right) and his partner, artist Don Bachardy, in their Californian home.

David Hockney – Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, 1968
acrylic on canvas, 83 1/2 x 119 1/2 in. © David Hockney

Interestingly, in this portrait, the background is strangely similar but this time the blinds are firmly closed. Both figures are seated and the light streams in from the right. One looks to the other, who looks at the viewer, creating that aforementioned cyclical relationship. There is a bowl of fruit between them on the table and a stack of books on either side, one more book on the left that the right presumably to break up the symmetry? The power somehow feels more balanced in their relationship as represented than either of the one above or the one below.

Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969
The figure in the centre is Henry Geldzahler, friend of Hockney and his partner, painter Christopher Scott, looks on. This one is interesting, when continuing to think about the power distribution in the relationship. Here, we as the viewer are at eye level with the seated figure who is looking at us. His partner is looking at him, and standing off to the side with his coat on. Geldzahler was the Curator of Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum, New York at the time so he almost looks like he could be conducting an interview here, sitting right in the middle of the sofa is a massive power play, especially when you can make or break the career of everyone in the room. This window has no blinds at all, combined with the view of skyscapers one could assume they are in an expensive high rise appartment. The window, the glass table and Geldzahler’s glasses allow Hockney to play again with three different interpretations on the transparnecy of glass. Although the window is behind them, the light is coming from an unknown source from the left, and since the lamp is not on, this is most likely daylight from another great window.

David Hockney – Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969, © David Hockney

American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) 1968

David Hockney – American Collectors (Fred & Marcia Weisman), 1968
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

American art collectors Fred and Marcia Weisman outside their modernist Los Angeles house with sculptures by British artists Henry Moore and William Turnbull in the garden. I love how he’s choosen the paint them out here as though they are works or art along with their statues.

Jason Brooks – Neutra House. © Jason Brooks 2015

Some of Hockneys work reminds me of the work of artist Jason Brooks (famous for Hed Kandi Illustrations). I wouldnt be suprised if Brooks if heavily influenced by Hockney. They live in the same sun drenched, stylish, happy flat world.

 

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972

David Hockney – Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures), 1972
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

Painted at the time of their break-up, Hockney’s then boyfriend, artist Peter Schlesinger, looks down at the figure of John St Clair, one of Hockney’s assistants, swimming underwater. (Tate, 2017b)

I found it interesting that the blurb in the booklet stressed that they’d just split up. It makes you assume from the picture that something was going on romantically between the two figures in the painting and perhaps this is the reason for the break up (I have no idea if this is true or not though).  Why would you paint someone like this if you were broken up with them? Was this painting, getting them together like this the cause of the breakup? The blurb poses more questions than the painting alone would have done. Interestingly in this painting, neither people in the painting is looking at the viewer, we’re all looking at the man in the pool, and the other man looking at the man in the pool, interesting when the view out across the mountains is spectacular and no one is looking at that.

My Parents 1977
The artist’s parents, Kenneth and Laura Hockney.

In this work, painted a year before his father’s death, Hockney’s style has shifted towards a closer study of human behaviour. His mother poses, attentive and graceful, while his father, who fidgeted during sittings, was painted reading Aaron Scharf’s book Art and Photography. A book on Chardin draws a parallel with intimate domestic scenes of the past, as do the volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past visible on the shelf. Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ (now in the National Gallery; see below) is reflected in the mirror, forming a triptych with the two figures. Gallery label, August 2004 (Tate, 2017e)

David Hockney – My Parents, 1977
oil on canvas, 72×72 in. © David Hockney

I found it really interesting that he abandoned painting a self-portrait in the mirror in a 1975 version of this but I cannot work out if that means anything or if I’m reading too much into it? Placing himself in the middle connects the two figures of his mother and father in a familial relationship. Placing The Baptism of Christ in the middle, as it was in the middle of the altarpiece, makes the two painted portraits of his parents essentially panels either side (as there were panels either side it on the altarpiece painted by another painter). Is this another art history play with reality vs painted surface conundrum? Also, this one struck me suddenly again, how many square paintings he has in this exhibition, in this one its obvious because he’s left the top of the painting unadorned, perhaps as space for God the Father (the third member of the Trinity) which may have originally have been represented in a roundel above The Baptism of Christ.

Piero della Francesca, about 1415/20 – 1492 – ‘The Baptism of Christ’, 1450s
Egg on poplar, 167 x 116 cm
Bought, 1861, NG665, https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG665

Contre-jour in the French style – against the day dans le style-francais 1974

David Hockney – Contre-Jour in the French Style-Against the day Dans Le Style-Francais, 1974
oil on canvas, 72×72 in. © David Hockney

The last one on the way out of this room caught my eye. this fantastic 70’s wallpaper with the beautiful formal garden beyond. This was directly inspired by a window in the Lourve.

 

 

 

 

 “The first time I went,” he wrote, “I saw this window with the blind pulled down and the formal garden beyond. And I thought, oh it’s marvellous! marvellous! This is a picture in itself … So I took some photographs of it, made a drawing, and started painting.” (David Hockney. My Early Years, op. cit., p285) Consciously drawing on a traditionally French style, the pointillist technique of the neo-Impressionists, helped him to loosen his brushwork again, and from the start the painting went well. The result beautifully depicts the light passing through the translucent blind and its reflection in the parquet floor. (Sykes, C S, 2012)

Room six: CLOSE LOOKING

David Hockney, Study of Water, Phoenix Arizona 1976, crayon on paper, 40.6 x 45.4 cm
© David Hockney

I spent ages in here, the behind the scenes room full of sketches, prep drawings and pen & inks. I love the outline ink on paper portraits and seeing the difference using a camera lucidia had on his drawing. And his study of water, phonex arizona 1976 crayon on paper. Too much looking and not enough note taking for this room thou! The blurb from the exhibition booklet states the following:

From the beginning Hockney’s ability at drawing has provided the bedrock for his art. The earliest work here, a self-portrait, was made when he was a teenager. For Hockney, drawing is primarily a way of looking more intently. Many of the drawings in this room – in pen and ink and in coloured crayon – are from the late 1960s and 1970s. At this time, Hockney developed a way of working that enabled him to capture the essence of a scene with the most economical of means: a few lines express the character of a sitter; one or two items conjure the feeling of a place or a moment in time. Because Hockney tends to make drawings when away from the studio, many reflect his travels and include friends and boyfriends in exotic places, the loneliness of hotel rooms or the pleasures of a lazy lunch. In the 1990s, Hockney proposed that many artists since the Renaissance had used optics as aids to depiction. He made a series of drawings using a camera lucida, a device which transfers the observed object to enable the artist to draw it with optical accuracy. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

David Hockney, W.H. Auden I 1968, pen and ink on paper, 43 x 35.5 cm
© David Hockney, photo: Richard Schmidt

Room seven: A BIGGER PHOTOGRAPHY

This room was dedicated to Hockneys ‘photography’. I remember being especially inspired by this when I was at high school. It’s really much harder than it looks to make a decent looking picture using this technique, especially with a film camera. I can see why he used polaroids to start with which he got used to the technique. A continuation of Hockneys issues with single-point perspective and a revisit to many familiar themes. Taking a cubist approach and trying to communicate the experience of the world as it actually is in 3 dimensions.

He described conventional photography as akin to ‘looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops – for a split second.’ In contrast, he sought to create a photography that could accommodate different viewpoints as well as time and movement. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Billy +Audrey wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982

David Hockney, Billy + Audrey Wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982, 1982. © David Hockney

Don+Christopher, Los Angeles, 6th March 1982

Gregory swimming, Los Angeles, March 31st 1982

David Hockney – Gregory Swimming Los Angeles March 31st 1982. Composite Polaroid. Collection of the artist. © David Hockney

Capturing the motion of a swimmer around the pool.

Grand canyon with foot, arizona, Oct 1982

He got tired of the annoying white borders so swicthed to 35mm photographs. This was an extrodinary collage of 35mm borderless images with the artists foot right on the edge of the cliff. Vertigo inducing. This one doesnt really incorporate motion unlike the next…

Walking in the Zen Garden at the ryoanji Temple, kyoto, Feb 1983

David Hockney – Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Feb 1983, photographic collage, © David Hockney

Another foot one, which shows a tranquil walk around a Japanese Zen garden.

The scrabble game, Jan 1983

David Hockney, The Scrabble Game, 1 January 1983 (1983) , Polaroid composite. Collection of David Hockney © David Hockney

I love this slice of family life one, reminds me of playing scrabble (very badly, and taking pictures) at my husbands family.

Pearblossom hwy 11-18th April 1986 #1

David Hockney – Pearblossom Highway, 11-18 April 1986 #1, Collage, © David Hockney

This is the famous one that everyone knows. Its huge!

Room eight: EXPERIENCES OF SPACE

I wasnt so keen on the this room. Too ‘jazzy’ and abstract. I dont think abstract was really his speciality (with the exception maybe of The eleventh v.n. Painting 1992). The discordant colours made my eyes sore. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it a bit more once I’ve studied part 5 of the coursework. These did catch my eye (in a good way) though:

Breakfast at malibu, Sunday, 1989 & Breakfast at malibu, Wednesday, 1989

David Hockney – Breakfast at Malibu, Sunday, 1989. oil on canvas. © David Hockney
David Hockney – Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday, 1989. oil on canvas. © David Hockney

 

 

 

 

 

I love everything about them, the setting. the different tea sets, the view, the handling of the sea, the table surfaces, the title that specifies the day but not the month. everything.

Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990

David Hockney – Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990, © David Hockney

This looks abstract at first glance but is actually very realistic view of winding roads and a high up view of Santa Monica (very small buildings on a giant curve of the bay). It has lots of texture. I’ve never been there but if I ever get the chance to go and see this view in person I’ll be delighted.

Through the 1980s and 1990s Hockney’s paintings focused on the experience of looking. The freedom and variety of markmaking within his paintings of this period – descriptive and decorative, denoting space, material and experience – reflect the layers of memory and invention within them. The post-cubist space that he created during this period was applied to landscapes and interior scenes of his new home in the Hollywood Hills. Landscape became the subject for paintings that were about moving through the terrain, the winding roads of Nichols Canyon and Outpost Drive being routes from his hilltop home to his studio. In these works flatness collides with illusion of spatial depth. But above all, these are paintings through which the eye dances, drawn by a sensuousness of line and colour where edges of viewpoints fold into and across each other. Hockney’s painting describes the complexities of space and there was an interchange at this period between his designs for operas and his painting. One tool he exploited was reverse perspective, which in his stage designs was intended to make the audience feel directly involved in the production by exploiting fluctuations of deep and shallow space. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room nine: EXPERIENCES OF PLACE

This room concentrates on Hockneys time in the late 1990s when he was producing landscapes (East Yorkshire where his mum lived, Grand Canyon, his house in Hollywood). I especially liked his images from Yorkshire, the English countryside is bright colours of summer and hairpin turns in the roads vividly reminds me of my frequent trips down to Dorset where you get glimpses of bright yellow rape seed, greenary and various other amazing field patterns whilst trying to fight off the spectacular carsickness.

David Hockney – Going Up Garrowby Hill, 2000, © David Hockney

He used multiple viewpoints to create a sense of his movement through the landscape, in particular up and down Garrowby Hill which rises from the Plain of York to the higher Wolds. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

The road across the wolds 1997

David Hockney – The road across the wolds 1997 © David Hockney

15 canvas study of the Grand canyon 1998

His multi canvas work is so big it lends some of the vastness of the view by being so vast itself. There is apparently a 60 canvas version! (see here)

David Hockney – 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, 1998 oil on 15 canvases, © David Hockney

Hockney also determined to paint the vast spaces of the American landscape. When he saw the Grand Canyon described as ‘the despair of the painter’ he could not resist the challenge, capturing the view with multiple perspectives. In depicting such places Hockney created an illusion of depth by the use of a foreground plain on which were arrayed objects, whether bails of wheat or small desert bushes. These derived directly from the abstract forms in his ‘very new paintings’ of a few years earlier (in the previous room) which themselves had been influenced by his stage work. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room ten: THE WOLDS

This was what my friend described as the room full of worm paintings (because of blossom on some has a giant maggoty feeling to it). She’d seen them at the Royal academy show a few years back (unfortunately I didn’t make that one) and they are amazing. Huge studies of the English landscape across multiple canvases, May blossom on the Roman Road 2009 in particular clearly has a Van Goghishness about the sky.

Hawthorn blossom near Rudston 2008

David Hockney – Hawthorne Blossom Near Rudston , 2008 oil on canvas, two panels, 60 x 96 in, © David Hockney, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas

David Hockney – May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas, © David Hockney

Woldgate woods, 6&9 November 2006. 6 canvas

David Hockney – Woldgate Woods, 6 & 9 November 2006. Oil on 6 canvas 78in x 152in. © David Hockney

 

Six part study for bigger trees, 2007

In 2006 Hockney returned to his native Yorkshire to paint the changing light, space and landscape of the Wolds. Works such as The Road to Thwing 2006 and A Closer Winter Tunnel, February – March 2006 show that Hockney was painting outside on larger canvases, sometimes moving between several before assembling them to create the effect of a single image. His move to a warehouse studio in Bridlington enabled him to create ever more complex and expansive pictures and begin exploring computer-generated images to aid their production. Hockney shares with earlier artists including the Romantics an engagement with the landscape based on memory and observation, but his focus is different. ‘Artists thought the optical projection of nature was verisimilitude, which is what they were aiming for,’ he said, ‘But in the 21st century, I know that is not verisimilitude. Once you know that, when you go out to paint, you’ve got something else to do. I do not think the world looks like photographs. I think it looks a lot more glorious than that’ (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room eleven: THE FOUR SEASONS

video room

Following on from the big trees and woods pictures in the previous room, this video room gives a slightly motion-sickness-inducing look at a similar scene across 4 seasons. I didn’t even know Hockney did video installations but here they are. Like his photography, it isn’t just from one point perspective. It’s like cubist video would be. On each wall is a giant bank of screens showing one season creating an immersive environment.

In 2010 Hockney began making multi-screen video works by fixing a number of cameras (one or each screen in the final work) to the outside of a vehicle which was then driven along the road at Woldgate, near Bridlington, Yorkshire. The result was like a cubist film, showing different aspects of the same scene as perceived by a moving observer. As well as an exploration of the way a subject is seen over time, this work was a celebration of the miracle of the seasons. The experience of spring in 2002, after more than twenty years in seasonless California, had been one of the stimuli for Hockney settling in Yorkshire for about a decade. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room twelve: YORKSHIRE AND HOLLYWOOD

I didnt write any notes for this room. Here is the blurb from the booklet:

Hockney’s move from Yorkshire back to the Hollywood Hills in 2013 was marked by two different views of the landscape. His last work in Yorkshire was a sequence of 25 charcoal drawings celebrating the arrival of spring at five locations along the singletrack road running between Bridlington and Kilham that had provided him with much of the subject matter for his painting of the previous years. The first works he made on his return to California were two charcoal drawings of his poolside garden at morning and evening.

The last four years have seen an intense diversification of Hockney’s practice and the media he has used in his constant search for ways to represent the world of three and four dimensions, emotion and feeling, on a two-dimensional surface. Through arrangements in his studio of furniture and people – family, close friends and assistants – he finds new ways to represent the experience of looking. His art springs from a personal environment, yet, for Hockney, the most important place is the studio, where his consistent questioning and hard looking is manifested in pictures that encompass and transform how we see and respond to the world around us. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room thirteen: iPADS

Ipads! And the card players, 2015,photographic drawing printed on paper and mounted on dibond

One of my favourite rooms, I spent ages in here watching the timelapse videos of how the images on the ipads gets built up. Despite the difference in technology his style still completely shines through. He’s totally given up using a normal sketchbook and draws on his ipad so he can email straight to his friends. This is amazing use of technology but given his age its extraordinary. I found it very inspiring.

David Hockney Ipad drawings (these two were a video them being created)

Hockney has always welcomed the challenge of picturing transparency. The sheen of glass, passage of light, splash of water, all predominate within his paintings, drawings and photography since the mid-1960s. Something else that has characterised his work from the outset when, as a student, he started printmaking, is his constant desire to master new media. In 2009 glass and technology came together in his discovery of the iPhone, and the following year the iPad, as a new drawing instrument. On the iPhone he drew on the small back-lit glass screen with the side of his thumb, changing to a stylus with the larger screen of the iPad, to offer a different variety of line and a new luminosity of colour. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

further reading todo:

References:
National Gallery. (2017) Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-della-francesca-the-baptism-of-christ
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Sykes, C S. (2012) David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975.
Tate Britain. (2017a) David Hockney At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/david-hockney
(Accessed on 1 June 17)

Tate Britain (2017b) David Hockney Exhibition Room Guide. 

Tate Britain. (2017c) David Hockney – Man in Shower in Beverly Hills, 1964 At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-man-in-shower-in-beverly-hills-t03074
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Tate Britain. (2017d) David Hockney – Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-1 At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-mr-and-mrs-clark-and-percy-t01269
(Accessed on 7 June 17)
Tate Britain. (2017e) David Hockney- My Parents At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-my-parents-t03255
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Essential Reading WHA: Art from 1900-1919

Political, economic or social factors

Queen Victoria died 1901. Start of 20thC saw revolt against all forms of naturalism, pre-war era most daring. New methods and ideas in painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, music, philosophy & science. French colonial scandal in 1904 of black people ‘hunts’/murders brought Africa into focus & public outrage. German architects ideas of creative autonomy led to forms of anarchy, their ‘alliance with leftist political utopianism with artistic avant-garde most pronounced’  p778. Futurist ideas spread throughout Europe & US (better known than Cubism), not solely concerned with the arts. Marinetti wanted to obliterate culture of the past  & replace with need society based on new dynamic sensations/speed/noise/mechanical energy of the modern city. Movement cut short by WW1 with death of Boccioni & architect Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) before futurist utopian designs built. It’s links with Fascism mean revival failed after the war Intellectual nature & ‘sense of social destiny’ of Abstract art linked with contemporary politics & social theory P793 Russian Revolution. World War I 1914-1918.

Changes to status or training of artists

Paris still artistic capital for Avant-garde Western art. Exhibitions here, and from 1910 in pre-war Czarist Russia, raised individuals & movement profiles. Chief patrons of Matisse/Picasso 1910+ were wealthy Moscow merchants whose collections were open to public meaning Russian artists aware of latest European trends. US architect Wright achieved international fame (but little influence) by 1910 publication of his work in Berlin.

Development of materials and processes

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
Paris, June-July 1907, Oil on canvas, 243.9 x 233.7 cm, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Radical innovations underpin all further developments to date, eg Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon ,1907, nearly flat painting of a complex of invented forms, p771. Revolutionary break with Western illusionistic art.  He abandoned traditional single viewpoint & proportions & reordered human form into geometrical lozenges/triangles. New intellectual treatment of space/form/unexpressed emotions/states of mind. Rejected coherences of representational art.

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VII, 1913, Oil on canvas, 200.0 × 300.0 cm, Moscow, Russia. The State Tretyakov Gallery

Also, Kandinsky created some of 1st completely abstract/non-objective works (simultaneously with others elsewhere in Europe). Landmark painting ‘Composition VII’ 1913. His earlier Improvisations had spiritual relationship with primitive art and artists. Plastics developed, 1909. Expressionists exploited woodblock/lino-cut to create graphic art with brutal powerful effect of distilling introspective emotions . P777. Matisse’s spontaneity misleading, colour & shape laboured over to the ‘right’ balance. Painting from subconscious, reactions to own reactions. In architecture, Poelzig’s Expressionist Grosse Schauspielhaus (1918/9) in Berlin was an innovation in theatre design, high stalactite covered ceiling with central circular stage. Picasso invented the collage (paste-up) by incorporating commercial print of chair pattern into 1912 still life. Went beyond play with natural & artistic reality by adding real items so they could be understood in either/both senses. Further refined by Braque , limiting the pasted elements to paper, Papiers colles, flat surfaces, eliminating illusionistic space. ‘we tried to get rid of trompe l’oeil to find a trompe l’esprit‘, Picasso, p787. Items pasted on meaningless, artist making meaning & beauty from nothing. Also, 1912,Picasso creates radical sculptural revolution by using all sorts of materials (wood, tin, card, paper, string etc) & assembling much like a collage. Liberating western sculpture from traditional material /techniques /subjects. Given new intellectual dimension although most sculptors stuck with traditional eg Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). Futurist Boccioni’s Technical Manifesto of futurist sculpture,1912, anticipates/parallels Picasso’s sculptural breakthrough. Using all sorts of materials ‘absolute & complete abolition of the finite line & closed-form sculpture’,p791

Styles and movements

Opposing tendencies, Subjectivism of Symbolists & objectivism/transcendent ‘otherness’ of Cezanne further explored bringing an end to artistic traditions from 14th C. First completely abstract work, 1912. Apparent dilemma between ‘cult of pure form & cult of inner truth’  p768. Period characterised by urge to break down convention & search for new ways of looking.

Impressionism culmination with Monet’s last series, Nympheas eg Water Lilies, 1907. His aim to present impressions of nature resulted in almost abstract view of his pool with its light, atmosphere and colour.

New way of seeing

Self-taught Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), naive artist, genius recognised by Picasso,  technical & conceptual naivety,innocent eye of a savage’ p769 enormous canvases of imagined, mysterious & menacing exotic jungle landscapes.

Henri Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life), 1905-06, oil on canvas, 176.5 x 240.7 cm (The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia)

 Les Fauves (Wild Beasts) group lead by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) held 1st ‘event’ in 20thC art 1905 in Salon d’Automne. Exhibition of ‘strident colours, rough handling & distorted anti-naturalistic drawing’ p774 Affinity with naive art. Others included Andre Derain (1880-1954) & Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958). ‘deliberate disharmonies’ of flat arbitrary clashing colours express artists personal emotional reaction to subject. Colour freed from descriptive representation. Devoid of social comment. Matisse’s The joy of life, 1906, key. P775. His Harmony in Red, 1908 sums up Fauve style, light a function of flat colour, no perspective/modelling/space. Childlike simple pictorial means. Georges Rouault (1871-1958) broke with the group early, became ‘finest religious painter of 20thC’ p776. More of an expressionist painter of spiritual anguish.

German Expressionism developed to convey oppressive mood of prewar apprehension. Charged with spiritual significance, nationalism & anti-French bias. Lead by Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938) who wrote Brucke Manifesto. Spontaneity & sincerity. Style pioneered by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) who remained independent of the group,considered herself a realist. Mystic evangelist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) painted his deeply religious feelings, ‘strength & inwardness’ p777. No general Expressionist architecture definition but roots in Gothic/Art Nouveau/anti-classical simplifying combination & expressive of function eg Erich Mendelsohn(1887-1953), Einstein‘s Observatory, 1919, & Hans Poelzig (1869-1936) (see above), AEG turbine factory, 1909,by Peter Behrens (1868-1940), & Max Berg (1870-1947), Centennial Hall at Wroclaw, 1911.

Der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider) group, Munich, 1911/16, abstract/non-objective works. Leading painter, Vassily Kandinsky (1886-1944), expressed through colour/form to strengthen emotional, spiritual & imaginative impact. Warm/spontaneous/organic. Revelation from seeing his upside down painting as ‘glowing with inner radiance’ p779. Franz Marc (1880-1916), killed in WW1, obsessed with animals. His most abstract, fighting forms, 1914, was left unfinished.

Franz Marc – fighting forms, 1914,

Georges Braque (1882-1963) & child prodigy Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) invented Cubism in close collaboration in 1908, tricky to define. Art simultaneously representational & anti-naturalistic. P783. The label of the Cubist movement was applied to a group of derivative artists in 1911, including Gleizes & Metzinger. Brought to US in 1913 exhibition. It raise Q of  ‘figuration as against abstraction as a conscious and serious issue’  p782 . Never intended to be non-representational, Picasso: ‘no such thing as abstract art. You must always start with something’. P782

Georges Braque, The Portuguese, 1911, oil on canvas, 116.8 x 81 cm (Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland)

Picasso ditched perspective /single viewpoint to combine several views in a single image. Surface of figures broken into facets lit from different arbitrary directions, space eliminated. Picture conceived as independent construction, picture-object/’tableau-objet’ p784. Layer more controlled, narrow range of close-value earthy colours. Less spatial, more volumetric & sculptural than Braque whose semi abstract natural forms of tilting overlapping planes in shallow space protrudes to the viewer. Their work 1910-12 known as Analytical Cubism less sculptural, ‘painterly dissolution of their 1908/9 manner’ p784. The term (by Juan Gris (1887-1927)) is a misnomer as there was no rational process of dissection. Forms more fragmented, they didn’t use observational references, leading towards intellectual abstraction just short of unrecognizability, near monochrome colours grey/green/ochres, dry matt surface. Unimportant ‘ostensible subjects hover like after-images behind geometrical structures‘. P785

Synthetic Cubism, mirror image of Analytical Cubism working back from abstraction to representation, developed alongside collage, object depicted with forms not derived from it, decorative and disunity. Eg Picasso’s harlequin, 1915. P788.

Pablo Picasso – Harlequin, Paris, late 1915, Oil on canvas ,183.5 x 105.1 cm, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest , © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Orphic Cubism group: Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), Sonia Delaunay-Terk (1885-1979), Fernand Leger (1881-1955), Marcel Duchamp (1884-1968), & Francis Picabia (1879-1953), interested in prismatic colour (when Picasso/Braque not) with contrasts and Cubist planar structure. Inspired by light itself, the sun, the source of life. Vibrant, dynamic. Leger’s style slightly different, genuine alternative to cubism. Contrasts of both line and form, instead of light, his subject was dynamic, discordant, urban, modern life. He became the artist of the machine age after the war.

Umberto Boccioni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
1913 (cast 1931), Bronze, 111.2 x 88.5 x 40 cm, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest

Futurism, short lived, high impact movement. Ideas by Marinetti & artist Boccioni (see thinkers below), aim to represent ‘psychical & total experience’ p790. Cubist broken forms, emphasising intuition/action & ‘simultaneity’ rejecting static compositions, pictures small sections of continuous wholes P790. Subjects moving through, or gone. Some abstract eg Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) created some of earliest non-objective paintings with his Iridescent Interpretations series 1912. Boccioni’s work more naturalistic eg. The city rises, 1910. The aims of the movement fully realised in his sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913. The construction of the action of the body ‘pure plastic rhythm’. P791. Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918), The Horse 1914 bronze cast of a mechanized/abstract but recognisable form.

Abstract/non-objective art implicated by Cubism (resisted by Picasso/Braque). ‘absolutely self-sufficient entity of value entirely in and for itself’ p793 Ideologically different from Kandinsky. Incorporated maths & ideal harmony between humans/environment.

Russian abstract movement lead by Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) & Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) in 1912/13 called Rayonism by Larionov because their works resembled rays of lights p794

Constructivist movement formed by Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) during/after Revolution.  Notable painter Liubov Serbeevna Popova (1889-1924). Although deeply Christian, Malevich interested as Kandinsky in theosophical speculation. His style ‘Cubo-Futuristic’ developed into totally abstract ‘Suprematism’, elemental visual forms, which convey the supremacy of idea over matter, over the chaos of nature’ p794 which ended in 1922. Progression of mathematical shapes & simple colours.

The 1917 Dutch De Stijl (the style) abstract group, led by painters Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931) & architect Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud (1890-1963) wanted to develop ‘abstraction towards its ultimate goal’ p795. Used Cubist ochre/grey colours but more spiritual form of art with close textured, dynamic compositions, high minded ideals of absolute purity, harmony & sobriety. Impossible to detect subject but based on nature.

American architecture grew in prominence with Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959). Extended Sullivans ‘form follows function’, applied to affinities of man & nature with ‘organic architecture’ suggestive of Cubism. Buildings in harmony with their environment eg ground-hugging prairie houses with free forms interiors & bespoke furnishings, ‘Robie House, Chicago, 1907-9’ p796.

In Germany, Adolf Meyer (1881-1929) and Walter Gropius (1883-1969) pre-empted the post-war International Style of architecture with their Fagus Shoe Factory, 1911-1914, ‘glass curtain-walling, flat roof without cornice, an unrelieved cubic block’ p797.

Inside and outside influences

Freud’s theories had a profound effect on artists & intellectual thought. Transformed attitudes & values. Engendered Primitivism, ‘myth of the primitive ‘ (ref Gauguin, section 4), influence of primitive arts of naive, folk art & children, especially African & Oceanic area art (seen in anthropological & ethnographical museums & fetishes in junk shops) on many Fauve/Expressionists/Cubists. Picasso found African art a creative revelation & liberating energy p771 He was influenced by Matisse & Iberian sculpture, el greco, symbolism & rejection of refinement (of his contemporary Monet). Said ‘around 1906 Cezanne’s influence flooded everything ‘ p771 (with his large figure compositions, a final attempt at classical tradition).

Art Nouveau & classical pastoral tradition influenced Matisse’s The joy of life & early Kandinsky/Gabriele Munter (1877-1962).

Rouault inspired by religion & van Gogh.

German Expressionists influenced by Nietzsche & Munch.

Abstract art originates in theories of Romantics, music & colour. Anti-materialist Kandinsky influenced by occult & theosophical ‘thought forms’ & Steiner lectures. Franz Marc inspired by Futurist & Orphic art.

Cubism influenced abstract movements such as Orphism, De Stijl, Constructivism etc.

Futurism influenced by fast paced modern life/technology, Cubists, Expressionists & multiple exposure photographic studies of movement.

Joseph Stella, American, born Italy, 1877–1946
Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras
1913–14, Oil on canvas
195.6 x 215.3 cm,
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme, Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Futurism influenced all subsequent contemporary artistic movements (including synthetic Cubism & Duchamp brothers). It’s exuberant optimism inspired Battle of Lights, Coney Island, 1913 by Joseph Stella example in US. P791. Also, Romanian sculptor Constantin Bruncusi (1876-1957) who’s main influences of native folk art/‘primitive’ African art were completely at odds eg The prodigal son, 1915 (hand-made/organic quality hated by Futurists) & Bird in Space, 1928 (eloquently embodies futurism).

Rayonists inspired Constructivists.

De Stijl influenced by Calvinist background.

Malevich’s lofty ideas influenced Vladimir Tain, El Lissitzky & Alexander Rodchenko in post-Russia Revolutionary period.

Critics, thinkers and historians

Philosopher Henry Bergson (1859-1941), Creative Evolution, 1907, also, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) parallels between artistic innovations & philosophy.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) ‘interpretation of dreams ‘, 1900, involved theories of the subconscious, including sexual urge & understanding instinctual side of human nature with emphasis on emotion and sensations being more important than rational thought.

Writer Andre Gidethe time for gentleness and dilettantism is past.  What are needed now are barbarians’ p769.

Poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) wrote about Rousseau.

Art historian Elie Faure described Fauves as young ‘primitives’ in exhibition catalogue. p774

Matisse’s Notes of a Painter, 1908, widely read, immediately translated into Russian & German.

Polemical French Catholic writers, Leon Bloy, Charles Peguy & Jacques Maritain friends & admirers of Rouault

Influential Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) inspired generation of writers/artists with oppressive pre-war foreboding eg novelist Franz Kafka (1883-1945).

The term ‘Expressionist’ coined in 1911, with regard to Matisse & Van Gogh at 1st, by writer Wilhelm Worringer (1881-1965) who published ‘Form in Gothic’ & ‘Abstraction and Empathy’ (1908, abstract art & need to withdraw from material world).

Critic Roger Fry wrote about Kandinsky in 1913, ‘Pure visual music‘ p778. French philosopher Bergson, ‘importance of the intuitive in the apprehension of truth’ p779 . Pioneer Gestalt psychologists asserted that shape/size/colour /spatial orientation etc produce certain perception, meanings inherent in forms/colours despite context. Kandinsky’s book ‘concerning the spiritual in art’. Abstract art as ‘inner-necessity’ not meaningless decoration. Occult/ theosophical theorist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) taught that artistic experiences & art were best stimulants for understanding spiritual matters.

Artists Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) & Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) wrote book, Du Cubisme . Georges Braque, Aphorisms on art published 1917, emphasised the autonomy of cubism. Picasso’s only recorded discussion on Cubism 1923 with critic Marius de Zayas, he was sceptical of intellectualising it, should be judged on results not intentions.

Critic/poet/writer/close friend of Picasso, Apollinaire spoke of Orphic Cubism as ‘pure painting’ in 1912 p789.

Italian poet Emilio Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) launched Futurism ideology, Milan 1908, manifesto published Paris 1909. Taken up by Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), further manifestos, on painting, 1910, ‘universal dynamism must be rendered as dynamic sensations; movement & light destroy the substance of objects’ p769, and sculpture, 1912.

Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), ‘Ornament and Crime’, 1908 gospel of modern movement in architecture.

References:
Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Frank Lloyd Wright Exhibit at MoMA Celebrates His 150th Birthday

http://mymodernmet.com/frank-lloyd-wright-exhibition-moma/

MoMA’s Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition looks back at his work through a collection of 450 objects from scale models to architectural drawings.

I was just reading about him in WHA today.