Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
Hockney’s unrelenting concentration on producing paintings continues into the new year. Particularly labor intensive and emotionally harrowing is Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which starts with two snapshots that Hockney notices lying adjacent on the floor of his studio: one of a figure swimming underwater; the other of a standing figure with eyes downcast, who becomes Peter Schlesinger in Hockney’s painted version.
The figures never related to one another, nor to the background. I changed the setting constantly from distant mountains to a claustrophobic wall and back again to mountains. I even tried a glass wall.
The longer you work on a painting the more you’re loath to abandon it, because you think throwing away six months is terrible. So I struggled on and on and fiddled with it .… After about four months, it dawned on me what was wrong: it was the angle of the pool which was causing me all the problems. I couldn’t alter the water section and it was impossible to adjust it, so I decided to repaint the picture completely.
Just two months before it is to be exhibited at André Emmerich Gallery in New York, Hockney entirely reworks the seven-by-ten-foot canvas, flying to Le Nid du Duc, to better capture, specifically at Tony Richardson’s pool, a figure swimming underwater, with Mo McDermott posing as Schlesinger.[NESTED] Writing in the New York Times, James Mellow assesses the Emmerich show as “distinctly a performance. [Hockney] is an artist with a keen eye, both for the social scene in which Pop art made its stand—that is, the world of fashionable and eclectic modern taste—and for the stylistic vagaries of the art world in general.”
I literally finished the painting the night before it had to be sent off to the exhibition. I varnished it, and the next morning we got up at six o’clock to begin rolling it. At eight-thirty the men came to collect it to send it off on a plane to New York, and it got there just in time.
George Lawson and Wayne Sleep
Back in the studio, Hockney is stalled on a double-portrait of George Lawson and Wayne Sleep, which will remain unfinished (ultimately, Hockney donates it to Tate Britain in 2014). The painting marks a need for closure on his several years of working in a naturalistic style, which he has come to consider as too reliant on a photo-realism.
Actually it was only a relatively short period, from 1969 to 1972 or so, where I did a number of paintings in a naturalistic style with a very clear one-point perspective. In fact, it was so clear that the vanishing point was bang in the middle of the canvas .... What I was struggling to do, was to make a very clear space. That is what deeply attracts me to Piero, why he interests me so much more than Caravaggio: this clarity in his space that seems so real. Well, I just couldn’t achieve that clarity, frankly; it was a hopeless struggle, and the painting I eventually gave up on was the double portrait of George Lawson and Wayne Sleep.
A final show at Kasmin’s gallery
In the summer, Hockney keeps busy sketching while traveling to Baden-Baden, Nice, and Corsica with Henry Geldzahler and Nicky Rea. His internationalism is evident in his December solo show at John Kasmin’s gallery in London, where his two weeks in Japan the previous autumn are evoked in Japanese Rain on Canvas—with liquid drips across its surface—and the mannerist Mt. Fuji and Flowers—which shows a jonquil arrangement, sampled from a florist’s manual, in front of a landscape, adapted from a postcard.
- Paintings and Drawings, André Emmerich Gallery, New York, NY, USA (May 13–31); catalogue.
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Suite of Etchings, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (Sep 6–Oct 15); catalogue.
- David Hockney, Kasmin Limited, London, UK (opens Dec 6, 1972).
- David Hockney: Paintings and Drawings, André Emmerich Gallery, Inc., New York.
- Stand Quarterly of The Arts (Vol. 13, No. 4), Stand, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
- Portrait of David Hockney, 13 min., directed by David Pearce.