LONDON – New portraits of David Hockney’s close friends – textile designer Celia Birtwell; his business manager and curator Gregory Evans, and master printer Maurice Payne – have gone on public display for the first time in a major new exhibition titled “David Hockney: Drawing from Life,” opening at the National Portrait Gallery, London on Thursday, Feb. 27.
Inspired by the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, which explores Hockney as a draftsman from the 1950s to now by focusing on his depictions of himself and a small group of his closest sitters, Hockney invited his friends to sit for him once more for a new series of drawings – 10 of which are on display in the exhibition. Drawn in Los Angeles and Normandy in 2019, the three-quarter length portraits are fond evocations of time spent together and represent the familiar faces and different expressions of his old friends, informed by all the sittings they have done previously. In the works, Hockney uses the walnut-brown colored ink favored by Rembrandt, achieving an uninterrupted continuous line.
Hockney has always communicated through drawing; the sittings allow an intimacy and closeness with the subject that cannot be achieved so readily with the bravura of the painted portrait. Fifty years after Celia Birtwell sat for Hockney for the first time in Paris, the artist invited his lifelong friend to Normandy on two occasions in August and November 2019, to sit for him again. The new works reflect his subject’s vitality and engaging personality, characteristics the artist has always been attracted to.
Gregory Evans has been an intimate friend of Hockney’s for 50 years, his consistent model, assistant, and now his curator and business manager. Sittings for the new portraits took place in Hockney’s Los Angeles studio in June 2019.
Maurice Payne, master printer, and friend of Hockney’s since the late 1960s has collaborated with him on several major etching projects, as well as being the subject of many of the artist’s portraits. The new portraits were drawn in Los Angeles in December last year.
“David Hockney: Drawing from Life” is the first major exhibition devoted to David Hockney’s drawings in over 20 years, featuring around 150 works from public and private collections across the world, as well as from the David Hockney Foundation and the artist. The intimate portraits of himself, his mother, Laura Hockney; and friends Celia Birtwell, Gregory Evans and Maurice Payne are rendered in pencil, pastel, ink and watercolor, using both traditional and nontraditional drawing equipment including colored pencil, pen the Polaroid camera and apps found on the iPhone and iPad.
Hockney is recognized as one of the master draftsmen of our times and a champion of the medium. “David Hockney: Drawing from Life” examines not only how drawing is fundamental to the artist’s distinctive way of observing the world around him, but also how it has often been a testing ground for ideas and modes of expression later played out in his paintings. Over the past 50 years, the artist’s experimentation with drawing has taken many different stylistic turns. The portrait drawings reveal his admiration for both the old masters and modern masters from Holbein to Matisse. The influence of Ingres can be seen in Hockney’s neo-Classical style line drawings of the 1970s and the “camera lucida” drawings of the late 1990s. In the 1980s he used composite Polaroids to “draw with the camera,” as he described it, creating Cubist depictions of form which paid homage to Picasso. In more recent years, Hockney has returned to the distinctive mark-making of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery London said “We are delighted to display David Hockney’s new drawings of his close friends for the first time. By focusing on Hockney as a supreme draftsman, first and foremost, and his intimate and revealing depictions of those closest to him, our major new exhibition “David Hockney: Drawing from Life” allows us to chart the effect of the passing of time – on his sitters and his relationship with them, and on the development of his style over the last six decades.”
David Hockney, OM, CH, RA (b. July 9, 1937) is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. As an important contributor to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential and celebrated British artists of the late twentieth and early 21st century.