No. 339, 6th June 2020, iPad Drawing

We need art, and I do think it can relieve stress. What is stress? It’s worrying about something in the future. Art is now.

Drawing from Life

In late February, the National Portrait Gallery in London opens David Hockney: Drawing from Life. As a career-long survey of drawings from private and public collections worldwide, it demonstrates Hockney’s extensive exploration into various media, from early collages and delicate colored-pencil portraits to more recent charcoal sketches and brightly hued digital drawings. Drawing from Life’s particular focus on portraiture centers on Hockney’s representations of certain close companions over the decades: his longtime muse, the textile designer Celia Birtwell; curator Gregory Evans; master printer Maurice Payne; and the artist’s mother, Laura Hockney. The fifth fascinating sitter to be highlighted is Hockney himself, in scrutinizing self-portraits that date as far back as his teenage years. Reviewing the retrospective in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones writes: “Hockney here is not a star but a stare. ... The intensity of Hockney’s self-inspection, fag in mouth, bears comparison with Rembrandt.” Celia Birtwell, reflecting on Hockney’s many portraits of her since the late 1960s, notes: “We only ever see ourselves in the mirror, we never ever see how we really are. He sees you as you really are.” 

Self Portrait with Cigarette, 1983

You have to look and ask questions … about what you are seeing all the time. Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory—where it stays—it’s transmitted by your hands.

I think the way I draw, the more I know and react to people, the more interesting the drawings will be. I don’t like really struggling for a likeness. It seems a bit of a waste of effort. … If you don’t know the person, you don’t really know if you’ve got a likeness at all. I think it takes quite a long time.

Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003
Celia, Carennac, August 1971
Mother, Bradford. 19 Feb 1979
Maurice Payne. Los Angeles. 11th September 1999

My Parents and Myself, On View

My Parents and Myself, 1976

In conjunction with Drawing From Life, the National Portrait Gallery displays, for the first time in public, My Parents and Myself. This abandoned painting from 1975–76 is a precursor to one of Hockney’s most beloved works, My Parents, completed in 1977 and now in the collection of Tate Britain. The earlier painting includes a self-portrait, seen as a reflection in the mirror situated between Mr. and Mrs. Hockney. Hockney admits that he kept My Parents and Myself at his LA studio despite his frustrations with it because “it was, after all, painted from life. And my parents aren’t here now.”

I was never truly satisfied, nor was I satisfied with it as a portrait of them. … So I had to struggle on. Now I might have abandoned it had it not been my parents.

Video Brings Its Time to You…

Viewers Looking at a Ready-made with Skull and Mirrors, 2018

At Annely Juda Fine Art in London, concurrent with the drawing retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, the show David Hockney: Video Brings Its Time to You, You Bring Your Time to Paintings and Drawings presents his diverse production across various media over the past decade. It includes recent portraits of Margaret Hockney, the artist’s sister; Scarlett Clark, the granddaughter of Celia Birtwell; and musician friends including Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. Two video works, Woldgate Woods, Winter (2010) and Seven Yorkshire Landscapes (2011)—shot using multiple cameras on a moving vehicle—fill the gallery with multiscreen views of the English countryside as a changing landscape. The show also features several of Hockney’s 2018 photographic drawings, made as composite arrangements of various sitters in his Los Angeles studio. 

Scarlett Clark, 20 Nov 2019
John Richardson
Margaret Hockney, 4 Sept 2019
Ed Sheeran
Bruce Samuels

My Window

The publisher Taschen releases a limited edition of Hockney’s artist’s book My Window, a portfolio of 120 iPhone and iPad drawings of the view from the window of his Yorkshire home, made between 2009 - 2012.

iPad Drawings

I began drawing the winter trees on a new iPad. … I went on drawing the winter trees that eventually burst into blossom… Meanwhile, the virus is going mad, and many people said my drawings were a great respite from what was going on.

In place in Normandy at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing in March, Hockney begins to send iPad drawings of the Normandy landscape out to friends. Among them is a daffodil image entitled Do Remember They Can’t Cancel The Spring. The drawings focus on the landscape’s renewal around him, especially in its apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees. In April Hockney releases ten of these images and an animation to the public through the BBC. The accompanying article includes his words of encouragement, including “Love Life.” As he continues making iPad drawings, Hockney sets and achieves the goal of completing “220 in 2020.”

Drawing from Life travels to New York

Late in the year, Drawing from Life travels from London to its New York venue, the Morgan Library and Museum. In the New York Times, Roberta Smith describes the Morgan exhibition as  “beyond ample as a showcase for Mr. Hockney’s towering drawing gifts, openness to new technologies and his incessant work ethic.” His drawings, she writes, are “about loved ones and the complex, constantly morphing nature of relationships and the people who forge them.” Ultimately, they “attest to the endurance of love in our lives and the role of art in making us see it.”

Ma Normandie

"Apple Tree" 2019

“I came to Normandy because there are more blossoms here … apple blossoms, pear blossoms, cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, apricot blossoms … so I’ve really been able to get the arrival of spring here.”

“The only real things in life are food and love in that order,
just like our little dog Ruby.
I really believe this and the source of art is love.”

At Galerie Lelong & Co. in Paris, Hockney’s solo show Ma Normandie opens in mid-October, featuring recent paintings and inkjet prints created in Normandy. The images capture the quiet solitude of his time spent there, as well as the charm of the region’s cottages, fruit trees, and the subtleties of seasonal change.

Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature, which had its premiere at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in March, 2019, will open in Texas at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on February 21 and continue until June 20, 2021.



  • David Hockney: Video Brings its Time to You, You Bring your Time to Paintings and Drawings, Annely Juda Fine Art, London (Feb 27–Jul 31).
  • David Hockney: Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK (Feb 27–Jun 28); catalogue.
  • David Hockney: Drawing from Life, The Morgan Library and Museum, New York (Oct 2, 2020–May 30, 2021).


  • Untitled, 2020, Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (Mar 21–Dec 13).



  • My Window, by David Hockney, Cologne: Taschen.
  • Video Brings Its Time to You..., by David Hockney, London: Annely Juda Fine Art.
  • David Hockney: Drawing from Life, by Sarah Howgate, London: National Portrait Gallery.
  • The Queen's Window by David Hockney, by Susan Jenkins, London: Scala Arts and Heritage Publishing.
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