Whilst I was researching Yorkshire artists painting during the 1940s I came across Harry Epworth Allen (1894-1958) see here who was born in Sheffield and lived there all his life apart from War service. He was recognised as one of the Yorkshire Artists group and his style is often regarded as surreal. When I looked further at some of his paintings they reminded me of David Hockney’s paintings – not in terms of colour but the use of curves and perspectives.
David Hockney was born in Bradford in 1937. He studied at Bradford School of Art from 1953-57, followed by National Service (as a hospital orderly due to being a conscientious objector) and then study at the Royal College of Art in 1959. A chronology of his biography and works begins here and he has had a rich and varied artistic career, embracing new forms of artistic technology with an enthusiasm and energy that provides a model for someone like me who is beginning to feel ‘elderly’ at times.
Hockney has often used the medium of photography. In the late 1960s he realised that polaroid shots of a living room, glued together, created a narrative. He began to work more with photography and stopped painting for a time but returned to it when he became frustrated with what he terms the limitations of photography and its “one-eyed” approach. In the early 1980s he produced photo collages, calling them ‘joiners’ . He arranged a patchwork to make a composite image, firstly using polaroid prints and then 35mm processed colour prints. Since 2009 he has painted many portraits, still lifes and landscapes using firstly an iPhone app and, since 2010, the iPad and he now carries his iPad around with him like a sketchbook.
I referred earlier to his comment on the “one-eyed” approach of photography and such comments are not new. On drawing grasses “…I started seeing them. Whereas if you’d just photographed them, you wouldn’t be looking as intently as you do when you are drawing, so it wouldn’t affect you that much” ( M. Gayford 2011: 32.) On ways of depicting that world that escape the ‘trap’ of naturalism. “Most people feel that the world looks like the photograph. I’ve always assumed that the photograph is nearly right, but that little bit by which it misses makes it miss by a mile. This is what I grope at” (ibid 2011:47)
David Hockney Photograph Photography is Dead. Long Live Painting
In 1995 Hockney painted Sunflowers for Jonathan as a get-well painting for his friend and patron Jonathan Silver who had been diagnosed with cancer and just had an operation. This then became a photograph that appeared in an Exhibition of post-modern Photography I saw at the V&A in 2011, with the title Photography is Dead. Long Live Painting . This is a photograph of a ‘real’ vase of sunflowers, probably referencing Van Gogh, seated next to a painted version which is positioned to appear in correct perspective for the camera. It is an inkjet print from a colour transparency, printed on watercolour paper. The title is ironic as it seems to decry photography but relies on the camera for its execution.
When I saw the photograph I thought it was delightful. It made me smile and I thought what a wonderful get-well card it made – playful, yet clever and making a visual comment about photography. I decided to create something in response for the exercise which then developed into my Assignment 1.
Gayford, M, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, Thames & Hudson Ltd, London