Five must-see Hockneys

  • 5 February 2014

To celebrate the opening of Hockney: Printmaker at Dulwich Picture Gallery, we've chosen five of our favourite Hockneys to see across the UK, from American landscapes to provocative Pop art.

1. Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970–1
Tate Britain, London

Hockney met dressmaker Ossie Clark and fabric designer Celia Birtwell while Clark was studying at Manchester College of Art. The two men went on to study at London's Royal College of Art, and Hockney was best man when Clark and Birtwell married in 1969. This large double portrait, one of a series that Hockney began creating in 1968, shows the couple flanking an open window staring intently at the artist. Only their white cat, Percy, looks away from the viewer, gazing disinterestedly out of the window.

2. The Actor, 1964
National Museum Cardiff

Shortly after his move to the USA, Hockney spent six weeks teaching at the University of Iowa. The five paintings he created during that brief tenure introduced several motifs that would become central to his body of work. The Actor features a stage-like setting framed by curtains, an Egyptian head inspired by a statue of the pharaoh Akhenaton, and a garishly decorated sofa and cushion – images which reappear in Hockney's later works. It was bought by National Museum Cardiff with help from the Art Fund in 1999.

3. Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool, 1966
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Hockney moved to Los Angeles full-time in 1964, where he began creating a series of works depicting swimming pools, including his iconic Pop art piece A Bigger Splash. Hockney first visited California in late 1961, and immediately fell in love with its clear blue skies, artistic community and relaxed gay scene. This radiant image, which won Hockney the 1967 John Moores Painting Prize, captures the aspects of the city and its culture that first attracted him – the off-white border echoes the carefree composition of a Polaroid photograph, the surface of the swimming pool gleams with reflected sunlight, and the naked back of Hockney's lover Peter Schlesinger sings of sexual liberation. The painting is currently on display in Walker Art Gallery's free exhibition, David Hockney: Early Reflections

4. Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians, 1965
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Created while Hockney was living in the evocatively named city of Boulder, this painting was inspired by images in magazines and depictions of the Wild West – Hockney's studio had no windows, so he worked from printed materials and his imagination. Hockney felt the dark rock in the lower right of the image left a gap in the composition, and so introduced a blue chair to balance the image, justifying the inclusion by saying in the title that the Indians were tired.

5. Bolton Junction, Eccleshill, 1956
Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford

While Hockney's most famous works are associated with Los Angeles, the landscape and atmosphere of Yorkshire had a profound influence on his career from the 1950s to the present – most recently in his 2012 Royal Academy exhibition A Bigger Picture, which featured works spanning 50 years that displayed Hockney's lifelong fascination with the Yorkshire landscape. This washed-out street scene, painted when Hockney was just 18, provides a stark contrast with the luminous Californian canvases he would paint a decade later.

Hockney: Printmaker is at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 11 May 2014. Save 50% on tickets with a National Art Pass.

Tags: What to seeMuseums and galleriesGreat days out