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Moving
Focus

David Hockney’s largest print series, Moving Focus is perhaps also his most ambitious. Combining multiple styles and techniques it is a tour de force of printmaking and represents the artist’s unfailing fascination with perspective and colour.

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Meaning & Analysis

This bold series, Moving Focus, shows Hockney experimenting with new techniques and his enduring ability to push the limits of artistic creation. The portfolio, spanning 1984–86, comprises 26 lithographs; however many of the prints also combine different methods such as etching, screen printing or collage in order to achieve a bold aesthetic. Inspired by Cubism, many of these works show Hockney playing with perspective – much like in his earlier photographic collages – across portraits, still lifes and interiors.

Within the series there are a number of studies of the courtyard of a Mexican hotel Hockney stayed in briefly which gives the artist the opportunity to play with space and perspective in a setting that combines the natural with the architectural, the organic with the decorative. The colours in the Hotel Acatlan prints are bright, with pinks greens and reds dominating the palette, creating an immediate association with Mexico. Elsewhere in the series, Hockney’s interiors are often focused on single or groups of chairs, usually made of wicker or rattan, allowing the artist to show off his ingenious use of line and colour in works that recall one of Hockney’s great loves, Van Gogh.

However it is Picassos’ presence which is most felt in the portraits that make up the series, with works such as An Image of Celia, An Image of Ken and An Image of Gregory representing direct imitations of the Cubist style. Here the intimacy of earlier sketches and prints of his companions is at a remove, their bodies and facial features have been reconfigured, the backgrounds are busy and bright, and the works feel more like paintings with their many layers and points of view. And while some of the portraits seem almost to be in movement thanks to their fragmentation and multiple viewpoints, in works such as Amaryllis In Vase and White Porcelain, life has been stilled. The simple compositions allow for Hockney’s other love, flowers, to take centre stage, their simultaneous bloom and decay frozen in time to remind us of the fleeting nature of beauty.

10 Facts About David Hockney's Moving Focus

David Hockney's Hotel Acatlán: First Day. A lithographic print of Hotel Acatlán's courtyard from an interior perspective.

Hotel Acatlán: First Day © David Hockney 1985

1. It’s origin story begins in California.

David Hockney embarked on a transformative chapter of his artistic journey upon relocating to the vibrantly scenic landscapes of California. It was here that he crossed paths with the esteemed master printer, Kenneth Tyler, who had previously collaborated with art luminaries like Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein. Their unique partnership melded Tyler's unmatched technical prowess with Hockney's insatiable exploration of art. The pinnacle of their collaboration emerged as Moving Forward. This masterpiece not only resonates with the bright Californian palette but also reflects the spirit and hues of Hockney's Yorkshire roots, showcasing a blend of form and vibrant colours, intensified by Tyler's adept touch.

David Hockney's Amaryllis In Vase. A print of five red flowers in a blue vase on a table against pink walls.

Amaryllis In Vase © David Hockney 1984

2. This is Hockney’s largest print series

As his most expansive print collection, it demonstrates not just quantity but an unmatched depth of experimentation. Its diversity, spanning 26 prints, reflects Hockney's relentless quest to push the boundaries of printmaking, making the series an indispensable reference point in contemporary art. Beyond the techniques, the series also offers insight into Hockney’s adaptability. While many artists find their niche and remain there, Hockney's Moving Focus reveals an artist in constant dialogue with his medium, unafraid to shift, evolve, and redefine his artistic language.

David Hockney's Celia With Green Hat. A lithographic print of a woman with blonde hair, green eyes, a blue sweater and green hat with her chin placed between both hands.

Celia With Green Hat © David Hockney 1984

3. It's a blend of fine art and childlike sensibilities

Rather than steeping his works in nostalgia or academic rigour, Hockney's choice of medium imparts a refreshing accessibility to the series. It's as if he's dismantling the barriers of high art, beckoning viewers to step into a more candid world. Through this series, Hockney challenges traditional notions and invites viewers to experience modern art from a more intimate vantage point: his own.

An Image Of Gregory © David Hockney 1984