A new exhibition of portraits by David Hockney will open tomorrow, Saturday 2 July, at the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition, entitled 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life, is compiled of Hockney’s most recent body of work, created over the last 3 years, and representative of a very specific time in his life.

In 2013, a tragic accident at Hockney’s home saw his assistant, Dominic Elliot, die. The trauma rendered Hockney incapable of painting or creating for months, telling the Sunday Times he “nearly gave it up.” 

In an interview with the BBC’s Will Gompertz, Hockney said of the Elliot’s death and the depression he sunk into: “That was a terrible shock, I mean a terrible thing. I didn’t do much work for a while, I mean I just… I drew the garden.”

After a while Hockney created a portrait of his studio assistant Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima (JP), who was also devastated by Elliot’s death. The portrait, which was to become the first in this series, shows Lima, downcast; head in hands. 

The portraits all have similar, bright, teal and blue backgrounds; and the subjects often sport equally bright clothes – Rita Pynoos in burnt orange, Barry Humphries in fuchsia (pictured) – leading many to draw comparisons with Matisse’s deft use of bold colours.

The series, according to the artist, is about how “we’re all individuals. That’s what it tells us. That we’re different on the outside, we’re different on the inside.”

David Hockney 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life is on at the Royal Academy of Arts until 2 October 2016.