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Friends
(Gemini G.E.L 1976 Portfolio)

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Critical Review

A more autobiographical series, Hockney’s Friends (Gemini G.E.L 1976) prints are a series of portraits depicting those closest to the artist

Whether single or double portraits, the works in this series offer an insight into Hockney’s life when he was living in LA in the 70s. From illustrious MoMA curator Henry Geldzahler to the famous writer Christopher Isherwood, Hockney was friends with leading figures in the arts scene and yet these portraits convey an intimacy and ease that can be found in studies of the artist’s parents or lesser known companions.

As with many of the artist’s portraits, the sitter is usually portrayed in an interior setting against a spare background which creates a contrast between the artifice of the composition and the naturalism of the figure. Here chairs and flowers are as carefully arranged as the sitters themselves, their position in space often determining the whole perspective. The series also follows much of Hockney’s oeuvre in its wide range of artistic references, from the artful arrangement of a nature mort in Christopher Isherwood And Don Bachardy to the nod to Ingres and Picasso, and even Van Gogh, in his single seated portraits.

The series was produced in collaboration with the legendary Gemini print studio in LA where Hockney worked closely with Kenneth Tyler to recreate the spontaneity of his line drawings in the lithographic medium. Unlike etching – which the artist had first started out with, most notably producing A Rake’s Progress series while still studying at the RCA – lithography results in a flatter image which can be felt most strongly in his portraits of Joe Macdonald and Nicholas Wilder which are among some of the most polished of the series, in contrast with the sketchier qualities of the portrait of Isherwood and Henry Geldzahler With Hat.