Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – David Hockney: Drawing from Life at the National Portrait Gallery from 27 February to 28 June 2020

Exhibition Review – David Hockney: Drawing from Life at the National Portrait Gallery from 27 February to 28 June 2020

The National Portrait Gallery presents the first major exhibition devoted to David Hockney’s drawings in over twenty years. David Hockney: Drawing from Life explores Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950s to now, by focussing on his depictions of himself and a small group of sitters close to him: his muse, Celia Birtwell; his mother, Laura Hockney; and friends, the curator, Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne.

The exhibition features around 150 works from public and private collections across the world, as well as from the David Hockney Foundation and the artist, the exhibition shows evidence of the artist’s different styles and how he has portrayed these five subjects over a period of five decades. The intimate portraits are rendered in pencil, pastel, ink and watercolour, using both traditional and non-traditional drawing equipment including coloured pencil, pen, the Polaroid camera and apps found on the iPhone and iPad.

The exhibition features new portraits of some of the sitters and previously unseen early works, including working drawings for his A Rake’s Progress etching suite (1961-63), inspired by a series of prints by William Hogarth, and sketchbooks from Hockney’s art school days in Bradford in the 1950s.

David Hockney made his name in the the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and is considered one of the most acclaimed British artists of the late twentieth and early twenty first century.

Throughout the exhibition is evidence of the way that Hockney uses drawing to make sense of the world around him, but also as a way to experiment with ideas and visual expressions which are often used in his paintings or in other mediums.

Hockney from the early days of his artistic career has experimented with a variety of styles and has been influenced by many artists like Holbein, Matisse, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso and Ingres.

However, despite the different styles and influences, Hockney has developed his own artistic path that often explores intimacy and closeness between individuals.

It is rare that you are faced with drawings and paintings that explore fifty years of the artist himself and a small group of his closest sitters. This intimacy and closeness gives a wide range of psychological insight as the sitter moves from young person to old age. It gives the viewer a visual reminder of how things change but in some ways stay the same.

This fascinating exhibition offers the opportunity to enter the world of David Hockney, many of the works in the exhibition illustrate his curious and playful nature and his relentless experimentation to illustrate the human condition. The portraits of himself and his friends never flinch from the realities of getting old but show a warmness and acceptance that reflect their relationships. Hockney may be ‘drawing from life’ but also finds enjoyment recording his life and the life of those closest to him for posterity.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

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