David Hockney

Art, Painting
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(11user reviews)
David Hockney
David Lambert & Rod Tidnam/Tate Photography David Hockney

Some paintings are like celebrities. You’ve read about them, studied them from afar, obsessed over them for years, but never actually seen them in the flesh. So when you actually come face to face with one, you get all wobbly-kneed and fluttery-eyed. That’s how some of the works in this massive David Hockney retrospective make you feel. The 80-year old Yorkshireman is a giant of twentieth-century art, a painter with an incredible eye for the iconic. But this show isn’t just some stodgy funereal look back – Hockney is still painting, and he’s still good.

But the show starts, like most things, at the beginning. Hockney’s early work – chronicling his years at the Royal College of Art – positions him as a sort of pop art Francis Bacon. Fuzzy flesh-coloured figures sit on boxes of tea, or against black backgrounds flanked by Alka-Seltzer packaging. Two monstrous mouths 69 each other, their penises replaced by tubes of Colgate, a tub of Vaseline in the background. There’s a lot of love here: men clinging to each other and dancing or bonking. These works are the throbbing early rushes of youth. Where Bacon is angry and tormented, Hockney is just…horny.

As you emerge from these first few rooms, you realise how important location is to Hockney’s work. Those early paintings feel like London: dark, polluted, messy. Then, Hockney sacks off Britain and the RCA, heads for California, and everything changes. In LA, Hockney found freedom, sunlight, swimming pools, heat, calm and sexual abandon. Gone is the early chaos, replaced by stark, naturalistic simplicity. This is Hockney becoming the Hockney you know. Water splashes, sprinklers spurt, men lay prostrate in the sun or emerge phallically out of a pool. Everything captured in crisp, pure, simple lines and an endless array of heat-drenched blues. This first room of LA work pulses with sun and sex.

From these beginnings, it only gets simpler and more controlled. He paints portraits of rich art collectors, artsy friends in fancy apartments. Hockney’s life was a dream and he was capturing it without any of the fuss of expressionism or abstraction, just achingly cool simplicity. You want to be in that pool, talking to those collectors, or digging your toes into Mr and Mrs Clark’s deep shag carpet. In the corner, a portrait of his parents feels like a cloudy little reminder of home, of reality – of Yorkshire.

None of this means he wasn’t radical though. His experimentation with photography – hundreds of photos of one thing from multiple angles, collaged into multi-layered compositions – shows how clever his eye is. Hockney sees things differently to everyone else. The polaroid composite of a man swimming nude is one of the best works here: sensual, erotic and hazily dreamlike.

The ’80s and ’90s saw Hockney start messing with perspective, capturing landscapes that seem to twist up and bend, a wiggly world of neon planes and green slabs. I mean, they’re awful. Just horrendous. Ugly, badly composed, lazily painted bollocks. And that’s before you even get to the ’90s abstracts that made my eyes want to vomit.

Thank god for Yorkshire, then. Returning home seems to have brought Hockney back down to earth like only Blighty can. The massive multi-panel landscapes he made throughout the 2000s are an artist returning to his physical roots and capturing them with ridiculously grandiose enthusiasm. They’re big, but feel wonderfully intimate, they’re like roadmaps of his youth.

The show ends with new dark wintery charcoal drawings of Yorkshire, explosively blue Californian paintings of verandas and then a bunch of images made with the Brushes iPad app. Don’t dismiss those. They’re Hockney at his quickest, rawest and most impulsive. And that’s the thing about David Hockney: whether he’s using charcoal, paint or an iPad – whether he’s depicting Yorkshire, California or his lovers – he always manages to be him. He’s an icon, a giant, an art celebrity, and he’ll leave you wobbly-kneed and fluttery-eyed like only Hockney can.

 @eddyfrankel

By: Eddy Frankel

Posted:

Average User Rating

4.7 / 5

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LiveReviews|11
1 person listening

My biggest regret is that I didn't go earlier in the run. By the time I got to Pimlico this exhibition was a bonafide sell out blockbuster which meant it was all a bit of a bun fight to see the pictures. However nothing can detract from Hockney's genius. I saw his beautiful landscape pictures at the Royal Academy a couple of years ago & fell in love with his use of colour. This exhibition met & surpassed my expectations. You could practically feel the sun on your face with his Californian pool pictures. His pictures simply make me happy & I smiled my way through the maddening crowds. He's a true national treasure & I look forward to his next chapter

Tastemaker

I can understand why this has been one of the most successful Tate exhibitions. So much so that I ended up going at 11pm on a Saturday night just to get a ticket! Six decades of Hockney is a truly beautiful thing. From the famous pool paintings through to iPad drawings, via abstracts and photos. An insight into his life in Yorkshire and Los Angeles. I would totally recommend getting the audio for the extra snippets, you learn so much more about his art.

tastemaker

If you're a Hockney fan then this exhibit is going to amaze you. A huge range of varying art from the differing stages of his life and artistic development. I knew of Hockney but I won't pretend to be an art conisseur...I was impressed by his range and differing artistic styles. Some of his work wasn't for me but with so much variety you're bound to find something to your liking.

tastemaker

I'm not into art, and generally dislike everything at the Tate - but this was an exception to the rule! Having known nothing about what to expect I was very impressed with the huge range of work that Hockney has produced. Very varied pieces, generally excellent. We went on a Sunday afternoon and it was jam packed, but not in a totally terrible way.

tastemaker

I’m not an ‘art person.’ I have no idea about perspective or the various ‘ism’ words that make up a lot of what I hear about art; but what I did have an idea of, was that when I saw some of Hockney’s work, I wanted to see it. I did think that because the exhibition was due to finish in a few weeks it may not be super busy, boy was I wrong. There were a LOT of people there… a LOT. But if you don’t mind a bit of a crowd, you’ll be OK. 

The exhibition took us through rooms which represented a different period in Hockney’s life and, as I was weaving my way through, I could completely understand why it was constantly packed; there was literally something for everyone. My friend and I got the audio guide which was incredibly informative and took you through about three pieces in each room which meant, with the general looking around, we were there for about two hours. I won’t even try to go into specifics regarding his work but I did take away one thing: Hockney is incredible.

Tastemaker

If you're happy to look past the crowded confined space and pretend you're also pool-side in LA you'll love this show. 


The amazing array of Hockney's work takes you on a trip. Never have I loved so much different work created by one person. The second room holds work from his Art School days, definitely showing the teachers' influences to "show emotion" in the work. 


The drawings were probably the part that stood out most to me, with so much detail and so little of the pastel colours we associate with Hockney's work. I found the final two rooms very impressive, because they showcased how well he has adapted to technology but that his artistic eye is still the same. 


This is a very memorable show, but might be just that bit too expensive for a standard ticket. 

tastemaker

This is an unmissable exhibition, David Hockney is one of the most Iconic British Artists of our time, this beautifully curated retrospective of his life work perfectly showcases his young style, development and maturity through his work. My favourite period has always been his LA inspired pictures of the 70's. his fascination with swimming pools and the movement of water. I really enjoyed his more contemporary work, his digital series of the seasons back in Yorkshire. His ability to be inspired by new mediums and technologies through his work is fascinating. I would recommended the audio multimedia tour too. 

tastemaker

The Tate's retrospective of Hockney is nothing short of masterful. It's a glorious love story to the boy from Bradford which perfectly showcases his evolving talent. The paintings are evocative at each step, and set out chronologically you can chart how his work has grown and adapted to outside influences - most obviously of which is location. His LA paintings in their brash colours meld into the muted Yorkshire tones and it's a thing of beauty. I've already been twice to this and would recommend to anyone thinking about going - it's not everyday you can see one of the greats laid out like this, so go while you still can.


I'm going to admit to something silly here, even before his Royal Academy of Arts exhibition, I kind of wanted to dislike him. Just because everyone seems to love him so damn much. And his paintings don't translate that well onto internet websites (even into books) for me. They are pretty and fairly interesting, but not worth the rave. 
And then of course, I went to see it and was so overwhelmed (those rooms in RA also helped to bring the paintings out I think. It's hard to fill their great spaces) and I loved them all.

With Tate, I thought, well, it's a long career, the Yorkshire paintings might be astonishing, but that might be because nature is... 
I know, I sound like a petty teenger. BUT, as it turns out, watching his career from room to room was perfectly eye opening and humbling. He's a great artist with a great eye for composition, line, colour, and *sigh*, I especially liked his portraits which never spoke to me before. It'd be fascinating to know how he'd paint me. A sulky admirer of his. 

Tastemaker

Just incredible, completely and utterly amazing. It felt like a real privilege to get to see so many of Mr Hockney's works all in one place. I have crystal clear memories of studying miniature copies of his work as a kid so to see the full size full fat version was just brilliant. His work swings seamlessly from Yorkshire to LA and back again. My favourite works are those depicting domestic life that capture both domestic bliss and the tenderness of private moments. It is busy but don't let that put you off, get yourself into a Hockney bubble and enjoy the ride.  

tastemaker

If like me, you haven't seen a whole lot of Hockney's work the retrospective at the Tate is the perfect introduction. It covers the whole range of his work. I really enjoyed seeing the evolution of his style over time. There were some lovely surprises including his Polaroid work, which gives an interesting insight into his visual style. The exhibition also includes some of his more recent 'ipad' works. Hockney really has kept up with the times! One piece of advice - prepare yourself for the crowds, even though this is a ticketed exhibition it is incredibly well attended. Maybe leave it a few weeks to let the hype die down.