Monday, August 28, 2017

About David Hockney and Watercolour

"With watercolour, you can't cover up the marks. There's the story of the construction of the picture, and then the picture might tell another story as well."
David Hockney
David Hockney doesn't call 'acrylic paint' watercolour! He reserves this term for 'proper watercolour paints'.

As one of the early and leading 20th century painters in acrylics he knows the difference - and the difference in the challenges they pose for the painter!

Hockney once condemned watercolour as a medium for painting - calling it "wishywashy" and "suitable only for Sunday painters".

However he changed his mind and was inspired to start painting in watercolour after seeing an exhibition about Thomas Girtin at Tate Britain in 2002. (see tomorrow's post)
The artist got his inspiration for making watercolours after visiting an exhibition of the French watercolour artist Thomas Girtin, who died in 1825 aged 27. He said he had to learn a new way of painting but found watercolour could capture scenes even a photographer could not do justice to.Hockney shows off his wishy washy watercolours | The Independent (2003)
In 2002 - Hockney painted a series of five double portraits in watercolour
Hockney, 64, has not called the paintings watercolours however - the title of the exhibition is Paintings On Paper. They measure 4ft by 3ft and were made using four pieces of paper, with Hockney painting them in sittings of seven hours, with no initial sketches.Hockney unveils first watercolours | BBC
In 2003 - Five Double Portraits: New work by David Hockney - painted using watercolour were exhibited in Room 40 at the National Portrait Gallery (16 January - 29 June 2003).
Hockney has long been interested in the dynamics of the double portrait. In search of a contemporary approach, Hockney began exploring watercolour further earlier this year and found its immediacy and fluidity lent itself to producing portraits directly from life. Painted on a large-scale on four watercolour tablets, each portrait was produced in one seven-hour sitting.
In 2003 - He also experimented with doing large watercolour paintings of the interior of his home and garden on multiple sheets of paper - see his website.

In 2004 - he was painting the Andalusia Mosque in Cordoba in watercolour - see his website.
David Hockney Midsummer: East Yorkshire 2004
In 2005 - he had an exhibition of watercolours he had painted in Yorkshire (see the video above) - David Hockney Midsummer: East Yorkshire 2004 Somerset House, London (17th November 2005 - 19th February 2006). Also exhibited in California as David Hockney Hand Eye Heart - Watercolors of the East Yorkshire Landscape LA Louver, Venice, California 26 February - 2 April 2005. I'm going to be ordering the pack of 36 postcards of the paintings from the Salt Mills Gallery!
When he was painting Midsummer: East Yorkshire, David Hockney worked in pre-mixed colour so he could work as fast as possible, and didn’t allow himself the comfort of any underdrawing in pencil. The result has a fresh and vivid beauty.
One visitor commented
Some years ago now I visited the Courtauld Gallery to see thirty six watercolours on paper by David Hockney. They were called Midsummer East Yorkshire 2004. I grew up a few miles from Woldgate woods, have driven over the Yorkshire Wolds countless times, and have lived a few miles down the road from Bridlington where Hockney now paints since the late 1980’s. It was the first time that I had seen the Yorkshire countryside that I knew and understood reflected back to me. No stone walls, no peaks, no sheep, no drama. I sat there in the middle of a London gallery and felt at home.Patricia Rogers





A reviewer for the The Telegraph commented in Hockney strolls down memory lane
You cannot deny them their skill. An accompanying film shows Hockney was using pots of pre-mixed colour, dabbing his brush in little inkpots, in order to work as fast as possible. With no pencil underdrawing, there is no room for mistake. There is one painting he had to abandon because it started raining - you can see the raindrops in the washes of green and grey he had been able to get down.

The sense of immediacy is total, and breathtaking: a refreshing contrast to the stiller, less effervescent oils he did of Yorkshire in the 1990s. Another unfinished work shows the silhouette of a combine harvester above two glorious streaks of golden corn and a flurry of grasses beneath. It makes you wish that other lover of golden cornfields, Van Gogh, had done more watercolours: they might have lightened his heart.
Of course not everyone liked them - this is a rather hysterical article by the art reviewer of the Social Affairs Unit - whatever that is!

In 2006 - Hockney
  • curated an exhibition of Turner watercolours at the Tate - see Hockney on Turner Watercolours - and I went to see it and wrote a couple of blog posts about it (see below)
  • had an exhibition "David Hockney Portraits - Life Love Art" at the National Portrait Gallery which included watercolour portraits
In 2012 - he exhibited another series of watercolour paintings of Yorkshire in A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy.

I doubt if Hockney will ever stop painting in 'proper' watercolour - because of its unique properties.

Reference


5 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Thomas Girtin was an Englishman.

Robert Jones said...

Well of course Hockney knows the difference, bless his little white cotton cap and ciggies: any painter should know the difference, which makes me wonder who on earth judges the watercolour competition? Yes, you can use acrylic transparently - you can use oil transparently - but that doesn't make either of them remotely akin to watercolour. I suppose we should be grateful that competition judges haven't gone so far as they did in Germany (I think) where an installation - of wall-hangings: it looked as if a crate of cats had got into someone's living room and, crazed with catnip, had shredded the curtains - was entered into a watercolour competition and won .... the judges of that one deserved to be shredded themselves. And if a similar fate should befall the judges of the Sunday Times competition, I shall readily contain my grief.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

@ Elisabeth - Your point being....?

Elisabeth said...

Hi,

I was responding to himbeing identified as French. Sorry to be unclear.

"However he changed his mind and was inspired to start painting in watercolour after seeing an exhibition about Thomas Girtin at Tate Britain in 2002. (see tomorrow's post)
The artist got his inspiration for making watercolours after visiting an exhibition of the French watercolour artist Thomas Girtin, who died in 1825 aged 27. He said he had to learn a new way of painting but found watercolour could capture scenes even a photographer could not do justice to.Hockney shows off his wishy washy watercolours | The Independent (2003)"

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Aha - I see.

That's a quote and yes I agree, Girtin is English. Not sure why that individual thought he was French!