David Hockney at the Royal Academy

Strolling into David Hockney’s ’82 Portraits and 1 Still-life’ (that person failed to turn up for the sitting) exhibition at The Royal Academy, is a delight to the senses.


At first embrace one might be tempted to think ‘mere sketches’ but look more closely and engage carefully with the works and the artist.

Apparently Hockney promised his subjects: his friends, family and acquaintances that he’d keep them posed no longer than necessary – just a few hours. Hence the sketchiness, the rapid often coarse paint-work, the flamboyant use of colour, the flat absence of space and perspective, the almost hurried finish . Spontaneity perhaps or a true capturing of the essence of his sitters’ personalities with a few brush-strokes? The sign of a true master.

Look carefully at the eyes as windows, many of which are looking directly at you: the sparkling, the serious, the staring, the bored and ‘please get this over with’, through to the virtually dead and soulless. Whilst most of us personally don’t know these people we can enjoy the experience of communicating with them at our own eye level (well done the RA for its hanging policy) and speculate on our own interpretation of the sitters’ personalities.

Look too at the postures: the slump, the upright, legs splayed or coyly crossed, straight out or tucked under. Look at the hands and arms, again crossed or splayed, folded, clasped, loose, dangling. How do we think Hockney has added to the depiction of his subjects’ characteristics by his and their choice of poise?

Ours to make sense of, to elicit the stories, to judge for ourselves and enjoy the intimacy.