How David Hockney’s Early Experiments Shaped His Iconic Style

While David Hockney is best known for his saturated California poolsides, admirers may be less acquainted with the earlier inspirations that were crucial to the artist’s practice. Starting this Tuesday, December 6, Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, will showcase 16 rarely seen works completed at the beginning of Hockney’s career, when he dabbled in different styles, media, and subject matter as he formalized his signature Pop practice. From pressed paper pulp works to lithograph prints, Hockney/Origins channels us through the various influences and techniques, both lifelong and short-lived, the artist zeroed in on between ages 24 and 43.

On loan from a private collection, the works in Hockney/Origins span across observational landscapes and portraiture, modern architecture, and literary references. One of the earliest pieces that anchors the show, “A Grand Procession of Dignitaries in the Semi-Egyptian Style” (1961), encapsulates Hockney’s experimental tendencies during his academic career at the Royal College of Art in London. Inspired by the translation of Greek poet Constantine P. Cafavy’s “Waiting for the Barbarians” (1898) and Pablo Picasso’s 1960 retrospective at the Tate, Hockney loosely rendered three human figures — a clergyman, a soldier, and an industrialist — with stiff, inflated silhouettes across a black stage that cuts across the scene.

Featured image: David Hockney, “Japanese House and Tree” (1978), acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 inches

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