David Hockney, Portraits
David Hockney has been practicing the art of the portrait and the self-portrait for more than 60 years. Under the title, “Drawing from Life,” the National Portrait Gallery in London recently brought together a wide selection of portraits of five of his favourite subjects produced over these six decades: the artist himself, his mother and three of his closest friends, Celia Birtwell who was already a luminous presence in the famous painting entitled Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy; Maurice Payne, his printing assistant with an aquiline profile; and Gregory Evans who was held in high esteem by the artist as each of the portraits drawn of him shows.
In this exhibition, there is a secret figure: time. We can read its sometimes devastating effects on the faces of the models as they age; we also witness the evolution over time of the painter’s sentiments towards each of his friends. This is a novel, the novel of a life that is unfolding before our very eyes. The last room, which includes the most recent portraits of all the models, except for his deceased mother, inevitably brings to mind the In Search of Time Lost of Marcel Proust.
As an echo to this exhibition, which has unfortunately had to close due to the epidemic, the gallery invites you to an online exhibition of portraits that places special focus on the variety of techniques used by the artist, including drawings on computers, self-portraits on an iPad, photographs, collages of photographs, prints or lithographs.
We find the painter’s favourite models, Celia and Gregory, his parents, but also his great friend, Henry Geldzahler, and the famous self-portrait of the artist as a student, his sketch pad under his arm, approaching the bust of Picasso, the revered master.