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Critical Review

Hockney continually embraces the still-life artistic tradition and his Still Lifes series captures this commitment to unique observation and detail. David Hockney embraces this tradition across his large oeuvre of prints which sees him coming back to the essential elements of observation time and again. Whether in one of his first lithographs,Still Life (silver flowers) or works, we see him giving as much attention to inanimate objects and flowers as in his portraits of his most beloved friends.

Here the artist’s long-running interests in optics and perspective come to the fore, along with his obsessions with light and shadow which brought him to LA, where most of these compositions date from. Objects are studied on a plane, usually a table, with the background left blank as if against a wall, or facing a window, as with the 1969 Still Life. Often a book is placed next to a vase of flowers, adding a third element to the composition, as in Still Life With Book. While many of these works seem to follow a tradition Hockney also subverts the genre to great effect in prints such as Alka Seltzer, an early aquatint study of packaging that recalls his famous Typhoo painting. Not strictly a still life, the work includes a figure surrounded by text, as in the style of Myself and My Heroes. Here the artist takes his familiar practice of paying close attention to an object or logo and transforms it into a living tableau, injecting the still life with a narrative.

Table Flowable also sees Hockney playing with abstraction within the still life genre. Here, loosely formed vases and a roughly sketched apple sit on a table that appears to be in a state of flux. Bulbous flowers emerge from the vessels, their blossoms resembling Calder’s mobiles, giving the composition a sense of dynamism and flow that we have come to recognise from the artist’s work in the ’90s, with print series such as Some New Prints.