David Hockney's Influences Series

 For John Constable is a tribute to British art history; an etching printed onto Crispbrook handmade paper, it portrays a few of Suffolk-born British artist John Constable’s works.Myself And My Heroes © David Hockney 1961
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David Hockney

David Hockney

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David Hockney's Influences series is testament to the profound impact that a diverse range of artists, musicians, and writers have had on his work. From his early days as a student at the Royal College of Art, Hockney has consistently paid tribute to his heroes through his art. Hockney's enduring admiration for figures across the artistic spectrum, from the literary to the musical, has shaped his creative output. By placing these influences at the heart of his work, Hockney honours their legacy while inviting us into a dialogue with the past, demonstrating his unique ability to blend homage with innovation.

The Importance of Artistic Influence on Hockney’s Oeuvre

Hockney's oeuvre is a vivid exploration of artistic influence, with his Influences series standing as a cornerstone for understanding the web of art and literature that has shaped his creative path. This series illustrates a personal narrative of the artistic lineage he sees himself as part of—one that spans from iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Walt Whitman to W. H. Auden and Richard Wagner – and Hockney's engagement with his influences extends beyond visual art to encompass literature and music, showcasing his interdisciplinary approach to creativity. Throughout his career, the success of his approach to artistic influence lies in the ability to both pay tribute to and creatively engage with the masters of the past in a unique way. Hockney often presents his own version of the canon, paying homage to the styles of his predecessors while reinterpreting them in ways that highlight his perspective and technical skill.

By placing himself alongside these giants in works such as Myself And My Heroes, Hockney acknowledges his debt to their groundbreaking ideas and artistic innovations. This early print was created shortly after his graduation from RCA, a time when Hockney was emerging as a promising young artist, having participated in the notable Young Contemporaries exhibition in London for two consecutive years. This print features Hockney alongside American writer Whitman and Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, both significant influences on him. Hockney is portrayed with distinctive glasses and a cap, amidst graffiti-style text that reflects Jean Dubuffet's influence on his style. This text, alongside haloes reminiscent of Byzantine icons, highlights the admiration Hockney holds for Whitman and Gandhi, underscoring the print's homage to his heroes through its title and expressive etching.

Maurice Payne (1971)

Maurice Payne is an acknowledgment of the significant relationship between Hockney and his long-term friend and master printer, Maurice Payne. Created in 1971, a year marked by some of Hockney's most iconic works such as Mr. And Mrs. Clark And Percy, this etching is part of a limited edition of 75. During this prolific period Hockney travelled extensively and engaged deeply with etching, capturing the people close to him – in this instance, Payne, who was instrumental in the realisation of many of Hockney's etching projects and is celebrated in this work for his expertise and collaborative spirit.

This portrait goes beyond mere representation, embedding Payne within the narrative of Hockney's creative process and printmaking journey: he is depicted on a chair, then an important narrative device for the artist, seen in works ranging from Photo Collages to Van Gogh’s Chair. By choosing to depict Payne seated, with arms crossed and a composed demeanour, Hockney conveys a sense of stillness and reflection that contrasts with Payne's rough, jagged hair. The simplicity of his form exemplifies Hockney's skill in capturing character through etching, and honours Payne's role as a master printer while highlighting the importance of collaboration in the art world. This work stands as a testament to the enduring bond between artist and artisan, celebrating the shared dedication to their craft that has allowed Hockney's visions to come to fruition.

Postcard Of Richard Wagner With A Glass Of Water (1973)

Released in 1973 as a limited edition of 100, this screen print highlights Hockney's exploration of music through visual art, a theme recurrent in his body of work. Portrait Of Richard Wagner With A Glass Of Water is a significant work that illustrates Hockney’s deep-seated admiration and connection to the music of German composer Richard Wagner. Known for his complex operas and innovative compositions, he has been a lifelong influence on Hockney, influencing his professional endeavours such as the stage designs for Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde in 1987 and inspiring his personal 'Wagner drive' initiative. It is emblematic of Hockney's genre-defying approach to art, reflecting a blend of theatricality and experimentation reminiscent of his stage designs.

However, at the same time that Wagner is the subject of the composition, his face is obscured by a transparent, brilliantly-rendered glass of water. This largely strips him of any recognisable features, although he is clearly identified in the caption written below. The play of transparency, water and light aligns with Hockney’s dexterity in depicting these elements, which he meticulously honed throughout his pool series. Furthermore, by distorting Wagner’s profile with a glass of water, Hockney engages in a playful dialogue with contemporary art practices of the time, echoing the conceptual work of Michael-Craig Martin’s An Oak Tree.

For John Constable (1976)

For John Constable is a touching homage to the Romantic painter known for his landscape works; ones that deeply influenced Hockney's own approach to depicting landscapes, especially those of Yorkshire in the early 2000s. Released in 1976 as a limited edition of 100, the print features reproductions of Constable's landscapes alongside a monograph, celebrating Constable's practice of painting en plein air – a method that later resonated with Hockney's own outdoor painting sessions. Hockney's etching skilfully juxtaposes gestural lines with meticulous cross-hatching, a technique that highlights his capacity to convey reverence for Constable's contribution to the tradition of landscape painting while reinvigorating it through a modern composition. By including Constable's name prominently within the work, Hockney underscores the artist’s lasting impact on his own artistic development and positions himself within the storied annals of British art history.

Youtube © Coluga Pictures / Are You A Turner Or A Constable Man? - David Hockney Outtake 23/80

Man Ray (1974)

The lithograph Man Ray is a vibrant tribute to the influential artist, a central figure in the Dada and Surrealist movements. Created in 1974, this colour lithograph was released in a limited edition of 100, two years before Man Ray's death, capturing the essence of an artist renowned for his experimental and avant-garde approach. Having moved to Paris's 6th arrondissement the previous year, Hockney found himself in a city with a rich artistic heritage that had been the subject of countless artworks. Hockney chose to honour the individuals who contributed to its vibrant art scene. Man Ray, an American who had made Paris his home for much of his life, became a natural subject for Hockney's work. The print features the Surrealist icon seated, holding his iconic yellow walking stick and surrounded by elements that nod to his groundbreaking career. The inclusion of a chequerboard and a table with only two legs references Man Ray's play with perception and his ability to challenge the conventions of reality, reminiscent of his gravity-defying paintings and the 1927 work Chess Set. Additionally, a small geometric artwork positioned near his head alludes to his disruptive approach to perspective. Through this print, Hockney acknowledges the enduring impact of Man Ray's creativity and his significant role in the development of 20th-century art. The lithograph stands as a testament to the interconnectivity of artists across generations and geographies.

Homage To Michelangelo (1975)

Homage To Michelangelo is a nuanced tribute to Michelangelo, one of the towering figures of the Italian High Renaissance. This work intricately blends visual art with literary homage, creating a multifaceted exploration of artistic evolution. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Hockney depicts two expressionless women approaching each other, each absorbed in their mundane task— one clutching a newspaper and the other a handbag. The backdrop features gestural studies of Michelangelo's works on an area resembling a wall, with the poem’s words scribbled amidst the sketches: “In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.”

The literary depth of this piece enriches its visual narrative, weaving together visual and textual elements to underscore the enduring influence of Michelangelo’s work across different artistic mediums. Released in 1975 as part of an edition of 200 within the portfolio Omaggio a Michelangelo, it was published to commemorate what would have been Michelangelo’s 500th birthday. One now hangs in the British Library, serving as an embodiment of Hockney's belief in the timeless conversation between artists across centuries and mediums.

Hockney's Love For Picasso: The Student / Artist And Model

Pablo Picasso has one of the biggest influences in Hockney’s life and oeuvre. This profound admiration is eloquently expressed in two significant works from this series: The Student and Artist And Model. These prints, produced during a time when Hockney resided in Paris following Picasso’s death, offer a visual dialogue that explores the depth of Hockney's sense of indebtedness to one of the 20th century's most revolutionary artists. The choice to visit the studios of Aldo and Piero Crommelynck, Picasso's master printers, to produce this etching further underscores Hockney's connection to Picasso's legacy.

The Student presents Hockney standing beside a bust of Picasso, elevated on a marble pedestal. This setting is symbolic of Hockney's veneration for the Spanish artist, portraying him almost as a deity within the pantheon of art history. Hockney, holding a blank canvas, positions himself as Picasso's equal, a bold statement of his aspirations and acknowledgment of Picasso's monumental influence on his work. In contrast, Artist And Model brings Hockney and Picasso into a more intimate setting, seated together as if engaged in conversation. The departure from formality to vulnerability is a shift from reverence to a personal, almost private interaction between the artist and his muse. Hockney's nudity in this print serves as a metaphor for his openness in the face of Picasso's genius, suggesting that without Picasso's influence, Hockney's artistic identity would be diminished.

Hockney and the Wider Cultural Discourse

By creating these prints, Hockney celebrates the contributions of his predecessors and underscores the continuity of creative thought, suggesting that innovation is deeply rooted in the appreciation and reinterpretation of the past. The blending of influences, ranging from the musical to the literary and painterly, highlights Hockney's belief in the universality of creative expression and its power to transcend temporal and cultural boundaries. The Influences series is essential for grasping how Hockney situates himself within an ongoing artistic and literary conversation, finding new ways to extend the legacies of those who have inspired him through his innovative compositions. This interplay between reverence and originality underscores the importance of artistic influence in Hockney’s work, illustrating how the past and present can coalesce in the hands of a skilled artist to chart new directions for the future of art.

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