Quite easily one of the nation’s most loved artists, any major exhibition of David Hockney’s work is likely to draw crowds. Yet a new display opening at The Hepworth Wakefield this autumn has the added appeal of offering an unusual insight into how the Yorkshire-born and bred art student became the internationally celebrated household name he is today, exploring his work alongside that of another important figure of post-war British painting: Alan Davie.
Hockney may be best known for his boldly colourful, semi-abstract compositions, driven by tireless experimentation and often threaded with aspects of pop culture. Yet his early training at the Bradford College of Art versed him in a far more traditional, realist figurative style. His visit to Davie’s first retrospective, held at the former Wakefield Art Gallery in 1958, had a major impact – providing a first-hand encounter with a new, pioneering approach to painting that he would go on to explore and embody at the Royal College of Art. The exhibition also marked a breakthrough moment in Davie’s career after it toured to the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
Just over 60 years on, Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Works will bring together around 45 paintings, collages and drawings by the two artists, tracing their parallel trajectories and shared preoccupations with passion, love, sex and poetry as their work oscillated between figuration and abstraction. The exhibition will be framed by an introductory section featuring self-portraits produced when Hockney and Davie were each 16 years old, providing a springboard into the differing but connected themes around masculinity, identity and public persona that went on to shape both of their lives.
Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Works will be presented alongside the first European solo exhibition of work by the early-career LA-based painter Christina Quarles, whose explosive canvases and unconventional figuration will provide a fascinating contemporary counterpart to this tightly conceived show.