Resulting from Hockney's rediscovery of portraiture, this new series of work captures the array of characters who have crossed his path over the past two years.
When the Royal Academy last hosted a show of work by David Hockney, it made history. In 2012 more than 600,000 visitors surged the gallery to gaze at the artist’s gargantuan depictions of Bridlington’s forested landscapes, immortalising ‘A Bigger Picture’ as the most popular British exhibition on record. Hockney responded by relocating to his home in California and taking a break from painting.
Four years later the artist returns to the academy with a brand new series of work. Since his last show he has rediscovered portraiture – one of the staples of his early career. After he found himself inspired to produce a depiction of his Los Angeles studio manager, he became freshly absorbed by the genre and over the coming months would implore dozens of people from across his network of friends, families, acquaintances, office staff, artists, curators and gallerists to sit for him.
None were commissioned and – initially – there was no exhibition was in train; Hockney simply wanted to follow his own creative experiment. Each of the resulting 82 portraits is the same size, capturing the sitter in the same chair, against the same blue background and the artist created each piece in the same three-day time frame. In this way he says the series can also be seen as one complete work.
Among those featured are designer Celia Birtwell – also recognisable as the female figure in Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy – comedian Barry Humphries and the artist’s sister, Margaret.