David Hockney: 82 portraits and 1 still-life

hockeny-leafletI had been looking forward to the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy and had secured some tickets beforehand.

When you walk into the exhibition, it is spectacular – the green and blue of the portraits’ backgrounds on the red walls really jumps out at you. The whole exhibition is indeed meant, I believe, to be viewed as one installation. When the portraits are studied individually, to me this is where they fall short; I personally found them very disappointing as they looked as though they had been painted in a rush, rather that they were more sketches as apposed to finished portraits.

Some notes I made as I walked around;

‘….the feet of the subjects do not appear to be firmly planted on the ground and there is an ‘unfinished’ feel to them. Maybe painted in a hurry? They work better viewed from a distance all together. e.g. Dr Leon Banks appears to have a hole in the bottom of his trouser leg.  I don’t like the shadows either. Some of the subjects look bored or slightly amused (Paul Gray) annoyed: Charlie Schers.  Pierre Saint-Jean has black marks near and on the face as if done with no time to finish up properly. I like the Barry Humphries best, as I feel he has captured the humour in him. I also like  34, the fruit on the bench, funny and unexpected (done when a sitter failed to show up).’

Celia Birtwell is there, the same lady captured so beautifully before and I found this painting in the Tate Britain, ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’. acrylic on canvas. (my own photo)


Of course, I do realise he was trying to do something else with the latest exhibition, but how beautiful this is to me in contrast. It glows with luminescent light, the texture of the shag rug, the surreal feel to it with reality somehow simplified, the misty images outside.

Also, whilst walking around the Saatchi gallery (sale of Brian Sewell’s artworks, which I shall write about in another post) I came across this one by Hockney: ‘The village street, Kirkton’. It is signed on the back for Mrs and Mrs Roe from David, so I imagine he did this as a gift of the view of their street. It is unlike his other work and rather unexceptional, in my opinion.


It has been good to see how diverse Hockney’s styles are, and how he has changed and developed over the years, painting what has been of interest to him at certain times in his life.

The exhibition was well worth it for the experience;  I do regret that I missed his Yorkshire Dales paintings a few years ago.



Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life in Spain with a tall bearded man from Dorset.

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