RainyDayMagazine had an opportunity to attend the Hockney press conference at the MFA. While many people associate the artist with his iconic landscape paintings, this press conference was to announce the first exhibit devoted solely to portraits painted by David Hockney.
The curators for this exhibition did an amazing job of presenting 162 of Hockney's portraiture works spanning 50 years. Hockney worked in a variety of mediums and they were all well represented. There are, of course, many different ways to view this exhibit. One can follow the growth and evolution of the artist over time. A visitor can follow a subject or look for a recurring theme in the paintings. With a collection this large, a viewer can even try to look for forms or feelings that are representative of the artist. In this first visit, we tried to note works that jumped out and spoke to us when we wandered through the gallery.
Often the subjects were members of his family, partner, and friends. His parents sat for many of his paintings. This exhibit brought together a large number of those paintings allowing the viewer to follow them over a few decades. When asked why he used his parents as models so frequently, Hockney replied with a little smile "...because they were always so encouraging and they never had anything bad to say about my work".
Self portraits were also a frequent part of Hockney's studies and this continues to this day. During a time he actually did a self portrait every morning. You will see many examples of that and other self portraits in this exhibit.
Many of his paintings have references to other influences and inspirations. Sometimes there are also a larger circularities to the works ... an example is the image in this tapestry and the tapestry itself.
While often commissioned to do portraitures, Hockney sometimes will only do it on his own terms. One such example is the painting below of Fred and Marcia Weismann.
The Weisman are avid art collectors. With this painting, they literally became part of their own collection. We were not really sure what was going on with Fred's grip, but there also appeared to us a bit tension in this outwardly zen-like sculpture garden :-)
The portrait above of Sir David Webster evoked a different feeling for us. Sir David appeared weightlessly suspended by the chair and floating effortlessly in the painting. As noted by the curators during the tour, unbeknownst to the artist, Sir David was actually quite ill when he was sitting for this portrait and passed away shortly after.
When Hockney moved back to LA permanently in the late 70's, the palette also returned to the stronger hues.
Hockney's curiosity led him to explore different approaches and mediums to his art. The exhibit included many examples of photo collages, Polaroids, and color laser printer generated works.
The above series of images were captured in the early 1990s using a video camera directly to the computer and printed using a color laser printer.
All of the experimentation ultimately led him back to the brush and paint. Hockney found watercolors to be a quick way for him to capture his subjects and did a series of 4 panel watercolors of many of his subjects recently (2002) in his London studio.
The last room of the exhibit had about a dozen of his most recent works. One of our favorite was "The Photographer and his Daughter (2005)". During the press conference, Hockney spoke about the relationship of photography and painting. One point he made was photography was often referred to as the "daughter of painting".
After all his experimentation with digital imaging, video capture, and instant photography, it seemed to Hockney with his return to brush and paint that painting may someday be thought of more as the "daughter of photography". In this painting, there are both subtle and not so subtle interplay of those ideas. We encourage our RainyDayMagazine readers to go and see this for themselves!
Plan on spending some time at this exhibit as there are a lot of very interesting works gathered in one place. There will also be two other versions of this exhibit (LA, London) in the future. The curators promised all the exhibitions will be different from each other. I guess we'll just have to go and see if that is true :-)
If you want to learn more about David Hockney's paintings, head straight to the MFA's gift shop afterwards. The gift shop's staff has done an excellent job carrying the theme of the Hockney exhibit throughout the shop.
Available are all kinds of books on Hockney and his work. There are also a large collection of posters, cards, magnets, and other fun gift items to bring home as a momemto of the visit.
If you need a bag to carry it all, there is always one with the Garrowby Hill painting imprinted on the side :-)