A new exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery of work by David Hockney brings together a unique selection of paintings and prints, which chart the early development of this iconic British artist. David Hockney: Early reflections goes on display at the Walker Art Gallery from 11 October 2013 to 16 March 2014 under The Arts Council Collection Partnerships supported by Christie’s scheme.
The exhibition is part of National Museums Liverpool’s Modern Masters series, part funded by the European Union – the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Featuring work from the Walker’s own collection, including Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool, which won the John Moores Painting Prize in 1967, together with key pieces from the Arts Council Collection and other loans, the exhibition explores Hockney’s early influences.
With almost 40 pieces on display dating between 1960 to 1978, the exhibition is an insight into Hockney’s prodigious talent which was evident even as a student. Through recurring obsessions such as the evolving references to his own homosexuality, depictions of the reflective qualities of water and his persistent return to portraiture, the exhibition reveals how his style, which flourished during the 1960s, had changed dramatically by the early 1970s.
Head of Fine Art, Ann Bukantas said: “David Hockney is one of the most important artists of our time. This exhibition goes back to the roots of his success, before he became an international star. We explore the influence of art school and life inLondon on Hockney’s drive to express a new artistic direction, his sexuality, and a burgeoning self-belief. “The exhibition also follows his transformative move to sunny Los Angeles, where his work becomes more openly homoerotic and celebrates his glamorous location and way of life, alongside his rise as an international name.
“The Walker’s Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool has a central role in the exhibition. As winner of the John Moores Painting Prize in 1967 it represents the success of this striking change in approach and technique.“We are really excited to be working with the Arts Council Collection to include several important pieces, particularly the Cavafy series of prints and the major painting from his Royal College days, We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961).”
Grouped thematically, the exhibition is divided into four sections:
In the Mood for Love – This section looks at some of the major early paintings that Hockney produced at the Royal College of Art (1959-62). Influenced by the bohemian and creative atmosphere in London during the swinging 1960s, the work explores the ‘modern’ style Hockney had developed. Despite a repressive social backdrop, where homosexuality was still illegal, Hockney found the confidence to express his sexuality in an increasingly overt way within his college work. This section features a number of the Love Paintings, including the masterpiece We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961) from the Arts Council Collection, Cliff (1962) and Going to be Queen for Tonight (1960).
Picturing Poetry coinciding with the Greek culture ministry’s Year of Constantine Petrou Cavafy (1863-1933), this section looks at Hockney’s admiration for the poet. It includes twelve etchings for the book Illustrations for fourteen poems from Cavafy (1966), a translation of his homoerotic poems. Hockney used personal experiences with friends and lovers to imagine Cavafy’s tender scenes of doomed love between young men. To demonstrate Hockney’s skill and versatility as a draughtsman and printmaker, the Cavafy etchings are displayed alongside two illustrations for the Brothers Grimm tales, from the Walker’s collection.
• On Reflection – Hockney’s water-themed paintings, particularly those of swimming pools are among his most renowned. This section deals with Hockney’s pre-occupation with the depiction of transparent surfaces, especially water, and his distinctive array of ‘visual signs’ with which to represent it. Around nine works in this section, including the iconic Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool (1966); a fascinating study for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures) (1971/2) and a lithographic print of his poster design for 1972 Munich Olympics, combine an array of vivid colours.
Familiar Faces – Portraiture has always been central to Hockney’s work. Preferring to make portraits of people he knows, a selection of works from the Arts Council Collection introduces some of his early social circle, revealing the skill, sensitivity and psychological insight with which he represented them. In the early 1960s Hockney began a short-lived spell of experimenting with abstraction and still life. One of the outcomes of this period is the Art Council Collection’s painting Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965), a depiction of Hockney’s father, sat behind a pile of abstracted geometric shapes, and beneath a colourful arc. The painting responds to Cezanne’s idea that all nature can be reduced to cylinders, spheres and cones.
Born in Bradford in 1937, Hockney’s stellar reputation was established while he was still a student; his work was featured in several of the annual Young Contemporaries exhibitions, one of which heralded the birth of British Pop Art. He visited Los Angeles in 1964 and settled there soon after. He is closely associated with southern California and has produced a large body of work there over many decades. In recent years the artist has relocated to Bridlington, Yorkshire where his work has focused on documenting the rural landscape. The artist was elected a Royal Academician in 1991 and recently appointed a member of the Order of Merit by the Queen.
Image: ‘Man in Shower in Beverly Hills’, 1964 © David Hockney. Photo © Tate, London 2013
David Hockney: Early reflections 11 Oct -16 March 2014 Walker Art Gallery Liverpool