A Look at David Hockney’s Drawings at The Morgan

Exhibition Reviews

November 18, 2020

Considered one of the most successful and recognized artists of our time, David Hockney has redefined the medium of painting during over six decades of creation. Hockney began as a working-class kid who could draw. A restless draftsman, he continued drawing throughout his career on whatever paper is there, concentrating on himself and those close to him.

Focusing on this aspect of his rich and prolific career, The Morgan Library & Museum is hosting a show titled David Hockney: Drawing from Life. Organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in collaboration with the artist and The Morgan, it is the first exhibition to focus on his portraits on paper, and one of the very few to investigate his drawing practice. It brings together over 100 drawings and prints, tracing a trajectory from the artist’s early sketches as a student, through his Ingres-like portraits of the 1970s, to his return to the sketchbooks and imaginative iPhone and iPad portraits in the early 2000s.

Left: David Hockney - Celia, Carennac, August, 1971. Colored pencil on paper, 17 x 14" / Right: David Hockney - Gregory, 1978. Colored pencil on paper, 17 x 14". The David Hockney Foundation © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney and Drawing

A true graphic master, David Hockney has always felt at home with drawing. An artist full of curiosity about himself and other people, drawing allowed him to explore the complex nature of relationships and the passage of time, but also to hold what he loves. “With watercolor I would have to go and get water, brushes, paint and things,” he once told a Dutch critic in an interview. “Now I didn’t have to get out of bed, I could even draw in the dark.”

Throughout his career, Hockney never stopped learning. The works in this poignant exhibition emphasize his towering drawing talent, openness to new technologies and his incessant work ethic.

Left: David Hockney - Mother, Paris, 1972. Colored pencil on paper, 17 x 14”. Collection of The David Hockney Foundation © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt / Right: David Hockney - Self Portrait, July 1986, 1986. Home-made print on two sheets of paper, 22 x 8 1/2 ". The David Hockney Foundation © David Hockney

Drawing From Life

Exploring the artist's unique drawing practice, the exhibition brings together portraits of a small group of sitters that has been important to Hockney over the years: his muse and confidante, the designer Celia Birtwell; his mother; his friend and former curator Gregory Evans; master printer Maurice Payne; and the artist himself.

Revisiting these people over the years as his style evolved and developed, Hockney depicted them in a range of media, from pencil, pen and ink, and pastel drawings to etchings, photo collages, and iPhone and iPad drawings.

Among highlights is the drawing Celia, Paris from 1969, which The Morgan acquired in 2017. The first portrait Hockney made of his close friend, the celebrated textile designer Celia Birtwell, it is an exquisite example of the precise, delicate style of line drawing the artist developed in the late 1960s.

Left: David Hockney - Self Portrait, 1954. Collage on newsprint, 16 1/2 x 11 3/4". Bradford Museums & Art Galleries, Cartwright Hall © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt / Right: David Hockney - The Student- Homage to Picasso, 1973. Etching, 29 3/4" x 22 1/4". National Portrait Gallery, London. Purchased, 1979 © David Hockney. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney at The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan’s Director, Dr. Colin B. Bailey explained that the institution has long "sought to find a way to show David Hockney’s graphic work."

We are thrilled to collaborate with the National Portrait Gallery, London, - and of course, David Hockney himself - to make this desire a much-anticipated reality. 

Curated by Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator of Contemporary Collections at the National Portrait Gallery, London, the exhibition David Hockney: Drawing from Life will be on view at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, in the Morgan Stanley East and West Galleries, until May 30th, 2021.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalog featuring around 150 beautifully reproduced portraits.

Featured image: David Hockney - Gregory (detail), 1978. Colored pencil on paper, 17 x 14". The David Hockney Foundation © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt. All images courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.

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