David HOCKNEY – Portrait of an artist (pool with two figures)

image 1David Hockney

Source image : slowpainting

David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England. He studied at Bradford Grammar School and then Regional College of Art. He won prizes and recognition. He began at that time painting with oils. He developed a personal artwork. In 1957 he took the National Diploma in Design Examination, and then he enrolled in the Painting School of the Royal College in London. Hockey began painting about his sexual orientation.

In the 1960s, he discovered and lived in America. He met contemporary famous artists. He particularly appreciated California. He taught at the University of Iowa. He used photography. In 1966, he met Peter Schlesinger and experienced his first true romance until 1971. The canvas Portrait of an artist (pool with two figures), comes within the scope of this period. After, David Hockney suffered from depression. In the 1980s he turned to photo collage, began series of self portraits. In the 1990s he experimented with rising technologies.

image 2David HOCKNEY, Portrait of an artist (pool with two figures), 1972, acrylic on canvas, 214 x 305 cm, private collection

Source image : ibiblio

In the foreground, on the left-hand side, we can see a swimming pool with a swimmer. The water is really clear with a transparent effect. We can observe two slightly different shades of blue. The movement of water is symbolized by curved white lines. On the right-hand side, Peter Schlesinger, in a red suit, is standing up on pool side. He is looking at the swimmer but doesn’t look expressive.

In the middle distance and in the background, nature and green colours are dominant. It’s really verdant. In the vegetation we also have touches of ochre. However, the background is drabber as if it is foggy. It represents different hills and mountains that David Hockney could have seen in the south of France.

A horizontal line divides the canvas into two parts ; the bottom part is composed with geometric shapes. The swimmer represents a horizontal line too whereas Peter Schlesinger, figure draws a vertical line. Hills and tiling suggest oblique lines. The general atmosphere is rather harmonious, peaceful.

image 3A Bigger Splash, film notice

Source image : leblogdeshige.com

Jack Hazan’s film, A Bigger Splash, has helped Portrait of an Artist to become one of the most well-informed canvas of David Hockney. The shooting began during the summer 1971, a few months before painting Portrait of an Artist.

An accidental encounter of two photographs taken by David Hockney, one of a swimmer in a Hollywood’s pool, the other of a figure (Peter) staring at the floor, inspired him in 1966. In September 1971, the canvas is sketched then abandoned. In April 1972, new series of photographs, taken by the pool of Tony Richardson, the film director, in the south of France, offered to him new solutions for the painting of figures. Mo Mc Dermott stood in for Peter, and John St Clair was the swimmer. The canvas would be finished a few days just before its exhibition in André Emmerich Gallery in New-York on May 1972.


image 4Series of photographs, Le Nid du Duc, avril 1972

Source image : Marco LINVINGSTOne, David Hockney, Paris, Thames & Hudson, 1991, 248 pp.

Hockney painted Peter according to photographs taken at Kensington Gardens, one of which a photomontage of 5 small photographs. From 1970, he had begun to use this technique which supplies more details.

image 5Peter Schlesinger, Kensington Gardens, London, april 1972, photomontage

Source image : cridly.wordpress.com

Portrait of an Artist is linked with his break up with Peter Schlesinger. The swimmer could be an allegory of the painted figure and the swimming pool the symbol of Art.

Portrait of an Artist belongs to a series of canvas about the theme of swimming pool : In his first canvas with Californian swimming pool in 1965 and 1966, David Hockney shows Peter Schlesinger and his other models going out of water, taking a sunbathing on pool side or on air mattress.

image 6David HOCKNEY, Sunbather, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 182.88 x 188.88 cm, collection of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany

Source image : t4la11.wordpress.com

Portrait of Nock Wilder and masterpieces associated, testify a profound desire to represent the visible world with precision. Nick Wilder was an art merchant. He had an affair with David Hockney before Peter.

image 7David HOCKNEY, Portrait of Nick Wilder, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 183 cm, Fukuoka, The Fukuoka City Bank

Source image : ibiblio.org

A Bigger Splash represents promotional image of California. Houses are low and moderns, and wide open. The swimmer disappears in the foam. A film company chair reminds us of Hollywood. Just one diagonal : the diving board. The white frame asserts its modern aspect. The origin of this canvas is an advetisement for swimming pool construction.

image 8David HOCKNEY, A Bigger Splash, 1967, acrylic on canvas, 242.6 x 243.8 cm, London, Tate Gallery

Source image : ibiblio.org

Canvases of the period after his break up with Peter are haunted with objects symbolizing absence. In Pool and Steps, Le Nid du Duc, the sandals are Peter’s. Yet, Hockney clarified that he had begun the canvas before their break up and that it is inspired by a coloured photograph from May 1971.

image 9David HOCKNEY, Pool and Steps, Le Nid du Duc, 1971, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 183 cm

Source image : limagesurlemur.wordpress.com


UPJV – L2 Histoire de l’art

Bibliographie :

Marco LIVINGSTONE, David Hockney, Paris, Thames & Hudson, 1991, 248 pp.

David Hockney, Espace/paysage, catalogue d’exposition, Paris, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1999, 227 pp.

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