David Hockney's Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures)

Year: 1972
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions : 213.5 x 305 cm
Last Realised: £70.7 Million
David Hockney’s Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures). An acrylic on canvas work of a man watching another man swimming in a pool outdoors. Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) © David Hockney 1972
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David Hockney

David Hockney

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David Hockney’s Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures), painted in 1972, is one of the most iconic works of contemporary art. The painting captures a serene yet emotionally charged moment featuring two figures – one standing by the pool's edge and the other swimming underwater – set against the backdrop of a bright, sunlit Californian landscape. Renowned for its vibrant colour palette and meticulous composition, the artwork explores themes of observation, contemplation, and emotional distance. This piece has been celebrated globally and achieved a record-breaking auction price of $90.3 million at Christie’s in 2018.

Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures): Meaning & Analysis

Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) is one of his most celebrated works. This large-scale painting features two figures set against the backdrop of a sunlit swimming pool in a lush, outdoor landscape. The painting is renowned for its meticulous composition, vibrant colour palette, and emotional depth.

The composition is symmetrical and carefully balanced with one figure, dressed in white, standing at the edge of the pool, gazing down at the swimmer below. The swimmer, depicted underwater, is seen in profile, gliding through the crystal-clear water. The tranquil blue of the pool contrasts with the surrounding greenery and the distant hills, creating a harmonious and visually captivating scene.

Hockney’s technique in this painting is characterised by his precise use of acrylic paint, which allows for smooth, flat areas of colour and crisp, clean lines. The water's surface is particularly notable, with Hockney skillfully capturing the interplay of light and movement. The reflection and refraction of light on the water create a sense of depth and realism, drawing the viewer into the scene.

Thematically, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) explores observation, contemplation, and emotional distance. The standing figure, often interpreted as Hockney's former lover Peter Schlesinger, seems lost in thought, creating a sense of introspection and detachment. The swimmer’s presence below the surface adds an element of mystery and separation, emphasising the physical and emotional distance between the two figures.

The painting also reflects Hockney's fascination with water and light, recurring motifs in his work. The depiction of the pool and the surrounding landscape captures the essence of the Californian lifestyle, a significant influence on Hockney's art since his move to Los Angeles in the 1960s.

Reflections on Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)

Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) has been widely acclaimed for its technical brilliance and emotional resonance. Critics have praised the painting for its ability to capture a moment of quiet contemplation and for its masterful use of colour and composition. The work is seen as one of Hockney’s most significant achievements, encapsulating his ability to blend personal narrative with universal themes.

The painting’s record-breaking auction price in 2018 underscores its value and importance within Hockney’s oeuvre. Achieving $90.3 million, it set a new benchmark for the artist’s work and highlighted the strong demand for his paintings. This high valuation reflects the appeal of Hockney’s art and his status as one of the leading contemporary artists.

The painting invites contemplation of the relationships and emotional distances that exist between individuals, captured through the serene yet poignant interaction of the figures. The work’s detailed realism and bright colours further enhance its impact, making it a powerful and memorable piece.

Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) stands as a testament to Hockney’s mastery of his craft and his ability to convey emotional narratives through his art. The painting continues to captivate audiences, offering a timeless reflection on the complexities of human relationships and the beauty of the natural world. Its success and acclaim highlight Hockney’s enduring influence and his unique ability to connect with viewers through his work.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) Exhibition History

New York, David Hockney: Paintings and Drawings, Andre Emmerich Gallery, May 197

Paris, Tableaux et dessins, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Palais du Louvre, October-December 1974

New York, David Hockney in America, William Beadleston, Inc., November-December 1983

Los Angeles, David Hockney: a Retrospective, Los Angeles County Museum of Art February 1988-January 1989

New York, David Hockney: a Retrospective, Metropolitan Museum of Art, February 1988-January 1989

London, David Hockney: a Retrospective, Tate Gallery, February 1988-January 1989

Sydney, From Pop to Popism, Art Gallery New South Wales, November 2014-March 2015

Sydney, Landscapes of pleasure: from Monet to Hockney, Art Gallery New South Wales, April-July 2016

London, David Hockney, Tate Britain, February 2017-February 2018

Paris, David Hockney, Centre Georges Pompidou, February 2017-February 2018

New York, David Hockney, Metropolitan Museum of Art, February 2017-February 2018