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G.E.L. 1979 Portfolio

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Critical Review

In 1979, Hockney was invited once again to produce a portfolio of prints by the prestigious Gemini print workshop, for which he returned to the theme of his earlier series, Friends. However while the previous portfolio was dominated by Hockney’s male friends and lovers, the 1979 portfolio features many portraits of close female friends Celia Birtwell and Ann Upton as well as Celia’s children – by fashion designer Ossie Clark – Albert and George Clark. But it is Celia who features centre stage, her unmistakable features rendered at once in a loose painterly style that recalls Toulouse Lautrec’s work with lithography or Matisse’s portraits of women, in works such as Celia Elegant, Celia Inquiring, Celia Musing and Celia Amused which form their own series. At the same time Hockney has also produced fine lined studies such as Celia Reclining and Celia Adjusting Her Eyelash which recall his pencil and ink drawings. Speaking of his love for Celia as both friend and subject Hockney has said, “Celia has a beautiful face, a very rare face with lots of things in it which appeal to me. It shows aspects of her, like her intuitive knowledge and her kindness, which I think is the greatest virtue. To me she’s such a special person.”

The portfolio also comprises three portraits of Ann Upton who met the young artist in 1960 and became his model two years later. She later met David Graves who became Hockney’s assistant and the pair were married in 1983 with Hockney as the photographer. In contrast with Hockney's portraits of Celia, those of Ann feel less posed. In Ann Combing Her Hair and Ann Putting On Lipstick she is shown in front of a mirror recalling Degas’s Women At Her Toilet.