Chairs David Hockney
Find out more about David Hockney’s chairs, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
While we often come across chairs in Hockney’s many seated portraits of friends, lovers and influences, we rarely see them empty. Here they present an absence that is hard to ignore and become as evocative as the images of the sitters themselves. With works such as Hat on Chair and Panama Hat the addition of clothes and accessories allows us to imagine the absence is temporary, the sitter having momentarily left the scene to return shortly. However when the chair is resolutely empty of both sitter and object it immediately becomes melancholy, as in Slightly Damaged Chair Malibu where a worn armchair takes on the weight of absence in a different way. Here we can align Hockney’s love for chairs with one of his great heroes, van Gogh. one of the most famous paintings by the Dutch post-impressionist is of an empty wicker chair; devoid of embellishment or defining quality it comes across to the viewer as being of great importance, its emptiness at once poignant and arresting. Here the absence feels permanent and the exquisite detail lavished upon its wicker seat, its gnarled back and legs feels like a loving tribute to one who is missed.
A more cheerful antidote to this mournful non-portrait can be found in Hockney’s Picture Of Two Chairs, featuring two overstuffed armchairs in an interior, one of which has been brightly coloured in yellow with red details. Where one empty chair denotes absence, two seem to evoke companionship and intimacy, their positions turned toward each other, evoking conspiracy between the two absent sitters, whom one can imagine engaged in a tête-à-tête.
As with any of his portraits, Hockney's studies of chairs are filled with life. Whether it’s a battered armchair, a spindly cafe chair or a bar stool, his keen eye for detail and composition make these works, along with his other prints of interiors, engaging and empathetic. They are also evocative of both his playful and serious side, giving us a glimpse into his charismatic personality and keen eye for the world around him.
Taking the chair as a subject we can also see how Hockney moves effortlessly across mediums; from shadowy lithographs and precise etchings to watery aquatints and sketchy intaglios, he is a master at picking the right technique to evoke a particular mood, light or perspective, exemplifying his claim that new mediums “always let you do something in a different way”.
Why is the Chairs series so important?
While easily dismissed as studies or sketches when presented as drawings, it is evident that by committing these to the printing plate, Hockney believed chairs to be an important subject. Whether admiring their design or their ability to evoke an absent sitter it is fascinating to see how he elevates a household object to high art.
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