In 1995, David Hockney staged an exhibition Dog Days at Yorkshire’s Salts Mill, displaying 45 paintings of his sausage dogs, Stanley and Boodgie. Known for his preference to portray family members, lovers or close friends instead of strangers, Hockney created art that, in many ways, unveils deeply intimate dimensions of his personal experience and lifelong relationships. Many of the artist’s 1990s works display his newfound interest in dogs, a yet another example of the personal subject matter that defines his artistic practice.
Dog Etching No. 11 (1998) captures one of the artist’s pets in a half-asleep pose. Executed in delicate, black lines, the dog lies in an armchair with one of his eyes closed. The dog, chair, and small pot of flowers are the only elements in the print and it is only through their presence that the artist configures the profound tenderness of the scene. Hockney builds the atmosphere of comfort and homeliness while using a highly minimalist technique and reducing the representation to the most essential elements.
Although the pet portraits may come across lighthearted in many aspects, Hockney’s representation of the creatures taps into a wide spectrum of feelings and emotions. In Dog Etching No. 11, a sense of melancholy is evident in the dog’s gaze as its open eye directly confronts the viewer. The artist comments in this context: “I make no apologies for the apparent subject matter. These two dear little creatures are my friends. They are intelligent, loving, comical and often bored. They watch me work; I notice the warm shapes they make together, their sadness and their delights. And, being Hollywood dogs, they somehow seem to know that a picture is being made.”