David Hockney - A Lifetime in Portraits.
Judith James

(An article for publication in The Independent newspaper. )


Ten years ago I went to see an exhibition of portraits by Picasso in Paris.  I was amazed at his early drawing ability and fascinated by the autobiographical information the portraits conveyed. It was a feeling almost of Deja Vue that I experienced when I went to see the David Hockney Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, in London. Picasso was indeed one of Hockney’s heroes. There was similar evidence of an early ability to draw. Hockney’s impressive work at an early age, such as his self-portraits of 1954, and Portrait of my Father of 1955, show how skilful he was at 17 years of age. There is also a wealth of autobiographical information conveyed through the subjects of his portraits, many of whom he has represented again and again over the years. Viewing the exhibition on a damp Saturday afternoon in London, was a joyful and uplifting experience. The overall impression was of light and colour. (Not unlike the light and colour that Hockney so values in California.) This was assisted by the excellent way the exhibition had been hung.  What was evident in the exhibition was Hockneys enthusiasm for experimentation, and the enormous variety of ways he has used to represent his subjects.  In my article reviewing the exhibition, I will show how it highlights the different phases of his career, from a young student from a working class background in Bradford, to his discovery and enjoyment of the swinging scene of the sixties, through his acceptance and fame, to the celebrated artist he is today. I will show that at this stage of his life Hockney has nothing to prove. Even if some critics think that his portraits of 2002 represent an apparent falling off of his abilities, it doesn't matter. He said of his father: He taught me not to care what the neighbours think.


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