The Rake’s Progress

Exhibition Review

  • "Hockney, Printmaker"

  • Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
  • 05 Feb 2014 - 11 May 2014
  • Bowes Museum, County Durham
  • 07 Jun 2014 - 28 Sep 2014
David Hockney, Myself and My Heroes (1961), etching in black with aquatint, 10 1/4 x 19 3/4 inches. Edition of 50 (approximately). ©David Hockney.

David Hockney, Myself and My Heroes (1961), etching in black with aquatint, 10 1/4 x 19 3/4 inches. Edition of 50 (approximately). ©David Hockney.

The exhibition “Hockney, Printmaker,” shown in two British locations this year, marked the 60th anniversary of the artist’s first print, the lithograph Self-Portrait (1954). This retrospective of some of David Hockney’s most personal, playful and eloquent works seems to have satisfied the critics’ desire to revisit the autobiographical and graphic elements the artist neglected in his recent Yorkshire landscapes. Those oil paintings, multicamera films and iPad drawings, vivid and voluminous, were showcased in “David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” at the Royal Academy of Arts and other venues in 2012–13. The curators positioned these works as ambitious sequels to the artist’s investigations in Polaroid, photocollage, fax and video.1 Yet while critics doffed their caps to his lifetime of restless reinvention and his eminence as one of Britain’s most celebrated artists, they felt something was missing. The provocative wit and swagger of his youth appeared to have been supplanted in later life by simplistic pastoral visions. Some critics hankered after the self-mythology and Los Angeles glamor of Hockney’s most famous figurative works, while others mourned the intuitive sophistication of his earlier draftsmanship.2

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  1. “David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture,” Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 Jan 2012–4 Feb 2013; Guggenheim Bilbao, 15 May–30 Sept 2012; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 27 Oct 2012–3 Feb 2013.  []
  2. Alastair Sooke in “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy of Arts Review,” The Daily Telegraph, 16 Jan 2012, wrote: “You would be forgiven for asking: what happened? After all, Hockney is best known as the raunchy Californian sensualist who painted sun-kissed boys gliding through the azure swimming pools of Los Angeles in the Sixties. And yet here he presents himself as a modest pastoralist, content to hymn the bounty of nature with quiet exultation—dancing, like Wordsworth, among the daffodils … The radical has come over all conservative.”; Laura Cumming in “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture Review, Royal Academy, London,” The Observer, 22 Jan 2012 said that: “Hockney is justly admired, not to say adored, for his pictorial ingenuity, his superlative draughtsmanship, his deft and witty inventions … This is the first Hockney show I have seen that appeared completely in earnest.”; and Brian Sewell in “David Hockney, RA: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy—Review,” Evening Standard, 19 Jan 2012, reminisced nostalgically: “There was a time in the 1970s when I thought him one of the best draughtsmen of the 20th century, wonderfully skilful, observant, subtle, sympathetic, spare, every touch of pencil, pen or crayon essential to the evocation of the subject, whether it be a portrait or light flooding a sparse room.” []