Review: David Hockney at Tate Britain

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Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) – 1971

David Hockney is one of the foremost British artists, famous for his works depicting swimming pools and other pop art, from collage to even modern, digital art. Always inventive, always exciting, the very best of his work over the last 60 years has been gathered at the Tate Britain for one mega exhibition, divided across themes and periods. Celebrating his 80th birthday this year, it seems only appropriate that this is his most comprehensive exhibition yet, and both fans and the unfamiliar will undoubtedly be blown away by this massive collection.

The entire exhibition will take about 2 hours to go through if you take your time to look at each painting. We’re no art experts, but here’s our picks of the must sees while you’re there, although if you have the time, it’s honestly a very well put together exhibition and every room is a marvel.

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Red Pots in the Garden – 2015

One of Hockney’s more recent works, this scene arrested us from the start with its bold strokes and bright colours. It’s reminiscent of Van Gogh’s landscapes (like in Starry Night) and there’s one of his iconic pools in the background, though admittedly painted in a very different style. Also, we like succulents, and boy are there plenty on this terrace.

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Woldgate Woods, 6 & 9 November 2006 – 2006 

Hailing from Yorkshire, Hockney doesn’t shy away from the beauty of its landscape and surrounding greenery, and uses his signature bright colour palette to really bring it to life. In many ways, this is a typical Hockney landscape, and Woldgate Woods seems like a precursor to his later digital video work, The Four Seasons (also available at the exhibition), depicting a road in York over four seasons and similar to this one, really immerses the viewer with his keen sense of space and scale.

David Hockney
Christopher Isherwood and Don Barchady – 1968

Although more widely known for his landscapes, Hockney also did quite a few portraits in his time. Here he paints English writer Christopher Isherwood (A Single Man, right) and his partner Don Barchady in their Californian home. Hockney’s penchant for painting people in a domestic landscape is seen throughout the rest of the room this painting is in, and there’s just something very natural and relaxing about seeing people comfortable in their own homes.

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Pearblossom Hwy. 11-18 April 1986 #1 – 1986

Pearblossom Hwy perfectly encapsulates the open road landscape unique to Western America. Consisting of quite a few photos gathered into a single collage, there’s a sense that you yourself are a part of the road, cruising along Pearblossom Highway itself, but the collage medium seems to suggest a fragmented memory of things.

A Bigger Splash 1967 by David Hockney born 1937
A Bigger Splash – 1967

You didn’t think we’d get through this list without mentioning his most famous work did you? With the title taken and used for a 2015 film, A Bigger Splash remains one of the most riveting works by Hockney. The lack of a human subject is contrasted with the splash itself, and the pool becomes our focal point. This is also the work that encapsulates Hockney’s obsession with the pools in Los Angeles, and when seen up close, really emphasises the scale and beauty of its apparent simplicity and clean style. Certainly a great reminder of summer days in these cold winter nights, and the quintessential Hockney piece.

David Hockney is on at the Tate Britain till 29 May 2017. Book tickets online here

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