Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life

Normandy Portraits, David Hockney, 2021-2022

David Hockney, Drawing From Life

David Hockney is regarded as a master draftsman who has prolifically drawn, painted and created throughout his life. Born in 1917 in Bradford, Yorkshire – a city at the heart of the textile industry in the 19th Century.  

 

He favoured drawing throughout his career, using pen and ink, coloured pencil, experiments with watercolour and most recently developments with iPad drawings and digital technology. This range of media, all encompassed with his iconic and visually playful style made for a very a interesting exhibition 

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

My Parents and Myself, 1976, David Hockney

 

The exhibition started with a portrait entitled ‘My Parents and Myself’, painted in 1976 whilst his parents visited him in Paris. It is an earlier version of his iconic painting ‘My Parents’. 

 

The earlier version lay unfinished for years, after the artist believed it had been destroyed. In this version, Hockney paints himself reflected in the mirror between his parents, a detail changed in the final and more iconic copy.

 

David Hockney and his Sketchbooks:

Hockney has always used his sketchbooks as a visual diary of his life, later using digital drawing on his iPad in the same way. 

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

2012 Self Portraits, David Hockney

 

His series of 2012 self portraits, where he drew himself every day for 20 days explored his different facial expressions and emotions of how he wanted to capture himself that day. Inspired by Old Masters such as Rembrandt, his different characters appear in the images.  Layers of lines and strokes, some defined and some blended create a beautiful illusion

 

Hockney’s Portraits

Training at the Bradford School of Art gave the artist an academic training in the principles of drawings and anatomy, inspired early on from a wide range of influences such as Piero Della Francesca.

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

The Student: Homage to Picasso, Etching, 1973

 

But it was later on when Hockney enrolled in the Royal College of Art in 1959 that he started to develop his own style. Experimenting with etching, anatomical drawings of skeletons and using a laser photocopier to produce prints he built up a plethora of work.

 

A theme that carried still throughout his work however, was a fascination with self-portraits. We see Hockney age through different renditions of his character.

 

Muses

Four muses appear throughout Hockney’s career of work: his mother, Celia, Gregory and Maurice.

 

Laura Hockney was supportive of her sons career and sat as a loyal and patient model, she appears in his sketchbooks in a variety of media.

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

Mother, Paris, Coloured Pencil on paper, 1972

 

This pencil rendition of her captures the polka dots of her outfit in both realistic and inverse qualities, as does the deep blue hatching on the chair, an indication of both colour and texture.

 

Celia Birtwell, a textile designer, has been a close friend to Hockney since the 1960’s. One of his most iconic muses, Celia has sat for Hockney again and again, often wearing her own romantic prints and designs in the poses, a visual collaboration between the two. We see Celia’s changing face in Hockney’s work, something the artist himself was fascinated with.

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

Celia Carennac, August 1971, Coloured Pencil on Paper

 

This iconic image of Celia shows one of her patterned textile designs, and how Hockney has complemented it with the tones and shading in the drawing. Gregory Evans was also a consistent model, partner and assistant for 50 years, his portraits tell the story of their life together.

 

As was Maurice Payne, a lifelong friend and master printer. They worked closely together in the 1960’s, collaborating again after 20 years in 1988 when Maurice set up a print studio in Los Angeles, Hockney’s home at the time.

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

Maurice Payne, Inkjet printed computer drawing on paper, 2008

 

This digital drawing is very bold due to the intense colours that Hockney has used to create the light and shadows. Although digital, this style bears a striking resemblance to the later series of Normandy Portraits in acrylic paint.

 

Normandy Series

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

Normandy Portraits, David Hockney, 2021-2022

 

As Hockney invited people back to his studio after lockdown, The Normandy Portrait series emerged. He returned to painting portraits after some time using digital drawing. All painted from life in 2021-2022, they depict friends and family, but also some unfamiliar faces and even his gardener. The sitters chose how they wanted to be depicted, painted in three sittings until complete.

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits David Hockney: Drawing From Life London Hand Embroidery

 

This iconic trio shows Harry Styles (top right), Clive Davis (bottom left) and Vincent Bocage with his Tractor (bottom right).

 

This wonderful exhibition was hosted by the National Portrait Gallery, https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/2023/hockney-drawing-from-life

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