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Hockney's portraits reveal much of artist

David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life is an intimate exhibition of recent portraits by the Royal Academician David Hockney, revisiting the genre that has played such a major part across his long career. Vibrant, observant and full of life, these paintings, which Hockney considers as one body of work, have all been executed over the last two and a half years in the artist’s Los Angeles studio.

The exhibition offers an insight into the artist’s life in Los Angeles, his connections to the art world and the people who have crossed his path over the last few years. Hockney’s subjects – all of whom were invited by the artist to sit for him – include friends, family, acquaintances and staff. John Baldessari, Celia Birtwell, Dagny Corcoran, Larry Gagosian, Frank Gehry, Barry Humphries, David Juda and Jacob Rothschild are all represented as well as Hockney’s siblings, John and Margaret.

Each portrait has been created within the specific time frame of three days, which Hockney describes as ‘a 20 hour exposure’. The portraits are painted on the same size canvas (121.9 x 91.4 cm) with each of the subjects seated in the same chair against a neutral background. The portraits provide a remarkable insight into the personality of the sitters, in addition to exploring Hockney’s own development working in the medium of acrylic. The works are hung chronologically within the Sackler Galleries to emphasise this development. Hockney set himself a considerable challenge to complete this large body of work. His deep interest in portraiture and its changing role in the history of art are evident as he challenges our perceptions of the value of portraiture in the 21st century.

Born in Bradford in 1937, David Hockney attended Bradford School of Art before studying at the Royal College of Art from 1957 to 1962. Hockney’s reputation was established early, with his work featuring in the Young Contemporaries exhibition in London, 1960; an exhibition seen as marking the arrival of British Pop Art. He first visited Los Angeles in 1964, settling there in 1979 where he has since produced a large body of work over many decades.

The paintings also tell much about the sitters from their body language. Open and confident, more closed in and slightly shy, for anyone who loves people watching, this exhibition is a delight. An enjoyable time can be had looking at stance, hand position and even what clothing they chose to be immortalised in. It is also interesting to contemplate and compare with other portraits through the ages - do these modern portraits tell more or perhaps less about their sitters? What will viewers think of them in another 500 years? A good exhibition to attend with company in order to discuss these sorts of questions!

Exhibition tickets for the exhibition must be pre-booked.


David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life

Showing until Sunday 2 October 2016

Royal Academy


Telephone 020 7300 8090.

Open: 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm)

Late night opening: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)

For further details:

Admission : £11.50 full price (£10 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available; children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free.


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