Still Lifes David Hockney
Find out more about David Hockney’s Still Life series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
From Caravaggio to Rembrandt, van Gogh to Morandi, the still life has been a popular subject throughout the history of art. 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 longrunning 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.
Hockney would revisit the still life as subject many times throughout his long career, whether through lithography, etching or digital drawing. His fascination with flowers – placed in a vase they seem to represent a microcosm of the natural world he has been so enamoured with since his first prints of Californian weather – becomes a series in itself, as prolific as his portraits or his pools.
Always a referential artist, with his still lifes Hockney places himself firmly in an art historical tradition, updating and subverting the genre to fit the new styles and tastes of the mid to late 20th century, bringing his unique talent to this universal subject. His mastery of the various print techniques is evident in this range of works that highlight his unfailing ability to challenge the limits of the medium.
Why is the Still Life series so important?
While the pools and the portraits get most of the attention, Hockney’s still lifes have always been a quiet contender for his most accomplished works. Showcasing the many different styles of printing he embraced throughout his career they represent the shifting and adaptive way of working that has made him just as relevant today as he was in the ’60s.
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