The Royal Academy of Arts presents an exhibition of recent portraits by David Hockney, the exhibition entitled David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life has the artist revisiting the genre that has played a major part in his career. Although there are 82 portraits and 1 still life, Hockney considers it as one body of work which has been executed over the last two and a half years in the artist’s Los Angeles studio.
The creation of the portraits was undertaken against a strict criteria laid down by Hockney himself, each portrait has been created within the specific time frame of three days, which Hockney describes as ‘a 20 hour exposure’. The portraits are painted on the same size canvas (121.9 x 91.4 cm) with each of the subjects seated in the same chair against a neutral background.
Hockney’s subjects for the portraits are people who have crossed the artist’s path in the last few years, they include friends, family, acquaintances and staff. John Baldessari, Celia Birtwell, Dagny Corcoran, Larry Gagosian, Frank Gehry, Barry Humphries, David Juda and Lord Rothschild are all featured as well as Hockney’s brother and sister, John and Margaret.
Walking into the exhibition is quite a strange experience with all the vivid and colourful portraits looking very similar. It is only gradually that the personality of the sitters begin to emerge and you notice the often awkward body language of the sitters. Hockney use of acrylic as a medium adds to the immediacy of the portrait and the uniformity of each painting tends to highlight the differences between the sitters.
The still life of fruit on a blue bench illustrates Hockney’s sense of humour, when one of his sitters failed to turn up , the artist turned his attention to what was available in the studio.
This intriguing exhibition provides a snapshot of a group of mostly Los Angeles characters, in many ways they illustrate the artist’s endless fascination with people. Hockney’s challenge to complete this large body of work may suggest that his interest in portraiture is still as strong as ever. It is a genre in which he very often excels showing both the strength and the fragility of the sitter.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
£11.50 (without donation £10). Concessions available.
Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free.
This is likely to be a very popular exhibition, therefore advanced booking is advised.
For more information and book tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here
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