Tulips and Painting, 1977
initialled, dated and titled ‘Tulips and painting. March 77 DH.’
ink on paper
17 x 14 inches
43.2 x 35.6 cm
43.2 x 35.6 cm
with Kasmin Gallery, London
Private Collection, UK, acquired in 1978
Private Collection New York, acquired in 2009
Description‘In no other medium that Hockney has employed have style and experimentation, tradition and the unfamiliar, reinforced one another and developed alongside each other as they have in drawing.’
(Ulrich Luckhardt, ‘Introduction,’ David Hockney, A Drawing Retrospective exhibition catalogue, London, 1996, p.13)
Drawing has been a vital component of Hockney’s practice since his student days at the Bradford School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London and it has become the discipline that has informed his approach to every other medium. Hockney’s artistic output is characterized by a profound stylistic diversity and it is through his drawings that one is able to trace the various processes and experiments he has explored from the late fifties through to the present day.
During the sixties, and after Hockney had moved to Los Angeles, the practice of drawing became united with a new found naturalism in his art. Los Angeles had provided Hockney with a new and stimulating range of subjects to explore and as such he began to look to his immediate surroundings for inspiration, drawing and painting the real things that he encountered as opposed to ideas or things that he had seen in books. In 1965, Hockney began an intensive period of drawing from life using pen and ink and this marked a significant shift in his draughtsmanship.
By the end of the 1960s he had become extremely proficient in this medium, and many of his drawings are made from a just a few strong and well defined lines which capture the subject before the artist. Hockney’s use of line in this drawing is minimal and the objects are described using a singular line. In this way, the image recalls a stencil drawing, our understanding of it having been built on reading the negative areas in and around the marks made.
The medium of ink lends itself particularly well to this subject and as the artist has revealed, ‘…if you want to work in line I think that it is the loveliest medium of all.’ ('David Hockney: An Interview' in David Hockney, Paintings, Prints and Drawings 1960-1970, Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibition catalogue, 1970, p12). Hockney’s output of drawings is exhaustive and his subjects range from land and cityscapes, interiors of rooms, portraits of his close friends and acquaintances and as in the case in the present work, still lifes. Hockney viewed his ability to draw as something which allowed him a greater freedom as a modern artist, as he explained in 1976,
'Tomorrow if I want, I could get up, I could do a drawing of someone, I could draw my mother from memory, I could even paint a strange little abstract picture…A lot of painters can't do that - their concept is completely different. It's too narrow; they make it much too narrow. A lot of them, like Frank Stella, who told me so, he can't draw at all. To me, a lot of painters were trapping themselves; they were picking such a narrow aspect of painting and specializing in it. And it's a trap.'(David Hockney, David Hockney, My Early Years, ed Nikos Stangos, Thames and Hudson, 1976, p97)
From 1970 drawing became a central focus in Hockney’s artistic practice and critically it was during the seventies that they also began to be recognised as important works in their own right. In 1971 his drawings, dating from 1960- 1970, formed the centre of an exhibition organized by the Bielefeld Kunsthalle for the first time. Three years later, a second retrospective in Paris established the significance of Hockney’s drawings, displaying more than double the number of paintings in the exhibition. In the latter part of the seventies a number of further exhibitions provided major surveys of Hockney’s drawings and today they are held in equal esteem to his paintings.