"David Hockney: Drawing From Life"
“David Hockney: Drawing from Life” at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York explores the portraits on paper by Britain's best known contemporary artist. The exhibition was organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in collaboration with the artist and the Morgan.
Hockney was born in Yorkshire in England in 1937. After studying art in Bradford, he moved to London in 1959 to study at the Royal College of Art where he achieved a reputation as a superstar. A trip to the United States in the 1960s resulted in a lifelong fascination. He has lived on and off in California for 50 years. Now in his 80s, Hockney continues to produce art each day.
A prolific draughtsman, there are hundreds upon hundreds of sheets as well as sketchbooks and iPad drawings. This exhibition features over 100 drawings and prints.
The exhibition focuses on works depicting five of the people closest to the artist and follows them through his drawings of them through the decades. Thus, viewers can see not only how these people changed over time but also how Hockney's perception of them has changed. The five sitters are: his muse and confidante, the designer Celia Birtwell; his mother; his friend and former curator Gregory Evans; master printer Maurice Payne; and the artist himself.
“The title of the exhibition does not include the word 'portraits' but is 'drawings from life' The artist wants to put emphasis on the fact that those portraits are done from direct observation. The time spent with the sitter is important to the way he conveys the mood and the emotion,” explained Isabelle Dervauxx, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings, at the Morgan. “The reason why Hockney likes to do portraits of people he knows well is that you do not have to struggle so much to get a likenees and you can spend more time in fact conveying the emotion and the relationship with that person.”
As this collection of works demonstrates, Hockney has not confined himself to any one medium. He has rendered these people in different media and forms, ranging from pencil, pen and ink, watercolors, and pastel drawings to etchings, photo collages, and iPhone and iPad drawings.
Hockney “was always trying different tools to obtain different effects,” Ms. Dervaux commented. “He made drawings with photocopy machines, with fax machines and then with computers.”
Along the same lines, Hockney has varied his style over the years. The pictures range from modernist cartoonish sketches to traditional drawings to digital creations. At times his works show the influence of Picasso, Duffy and Matisse while in others, the influence is Ingres. While the works often reflect the influence of other artists, there is always originality in his style.
The works give a sense of the personalities of the various sitters. However, Hockney's exploration of various media and styles over the years reveals a creative mind that is not content to stand still.
“It is a complex exhibition with many ideas and influences but very personal,” commented the Morgan’s Director, Dr. Colin B. Bailey.
David Hockney, Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003. Watercolor on paper, 24 x 18 1/8 inches © David Hockney. Photography by Richard Schmidt.
David Hockney, Celia, Carennac, August 1971. Colored pencil on paper, 17 x 14 inches © David Hockney. Photography by Richard Schmidt, Collection: The David Hockney Foundation
Art review - Morgan Library and Museum - "David Hockney: Drawing From Life"