Yes, David Hockney has gone back to painting portraits. And, according to the master, there is as much of him in the painting as there is of the subject. His statement ‘It’s hard to know where I end, and they begin’ is the leitmotif of the exhibit.
In the Ca’ Pesaro Museum in Venice, Italy, the exhibition ‘82 portraits and 1 still life’ by David Hockney is showing. Over the course of the last four years or so, he has painted portraits mainly of people who mean something in his life. There are friends, assistants, dealers, housekeepers, and – some of – their children depicted.
With some of the portraits, David Hockney gives some more information as to the circumstances of the ‘sit’ and what his relationship is to the subject. These are the more interesting portraits, because they come alive more than the others.
For instance, in one of the portraits, there is a lady depicted who had just lost her father. Looking at the painting, you already think she is not looking happy. Giving the background information explains that. And he goes on to explain that they rescheduled their ‘sitting’ and that he in the meantime painted the 1 still life that is part of the exhibit. A bench with fruits.
It’s, therefore, a pity that with a number of them, he only states ‘longtime friend’. But from the faces, and to some extent the body posture, you do get a peek at the person behind it anyway. Or inside it. And that even though he doesn’t paint much detail. His style is somewhere in between impressionist, or expressionist considering the color palette, and realist.
Apart from the subject, he kept the rest of the painting ‘the same’. The wall, the floor, and the chair are constants in the pictures. Ok, he changes the colors of the wall and floor around sometimes, or they are a slightly different hue, minor detail, but that same background focusses your attention to the person in the middle. And that is of course what it’s all about.
And the postures that people came up with to be painted in, are somehow more varied than you would expect. These are also giving you clues about the person depicted, of course. As well as the clothes they choose to be painted in. Some of them really took this seriously and came in a gala outfit. They came to be ‘immortalized’. Others just sat in their everyday attire, kind of smiling away. Very telling about the person, of course.
At the back of the exhibition, there is a wall with visitor’s own versions of a Hockney’s portrait. The backdrop and chair are also there. It’s part of the program for visiting school classes. To involve them in the show. They can ‘put themselves in the picture’, so to speak. And that is a great way of raising interest in modern art with young people, I think.