In the bedroom with David Hockney…

In the bedroom with David Hockney

If it’s true, it’ll be a bit of a departure (yes, another one!) for the Bradford-born, California-based, artist. He’s best known for his shimmering images of swimming pools; for epic landscapes, both of the vibrant scenery of his current American home and the more muted colours of his beloved East Yorkshire; and for being at the cutting edge of new technology, using iPads (and exhibiting his work on banks of them) years ahead of most other artists.

He’s no stranger to the domestic interior, though. One of his most famous paintings, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, is ostensibly a portrait of his friends, the fashion designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell – he had been best man at their wedding a couple of years earlier.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy

But it also contains many endearing insights into their everyday life, such as a vase of slightly curling, just-past-their-best white lilies, which were probably considered quite exotic and bohemian at the time, and a white plastic rotary dial telephone that roots the picture firmly in the early 1970s.

And bedrooms have also featured in his work before – there’s Bedroom, a pencil and crayon image from 1966, in which the starkness of the title is matched by the sharp clinical lines of the green bedspread, smoked glass table and rectangle of monochrome modern art mounted above the double bed. It’s reminiscent of the loneliness of an Edward Hopper painting from the 1940s.

The more intriguing Room in Tarzana (a neighbourhood of Los Angeles), dating from a year later, depicts a mysterious figure clad only in a white T-shirt and white socks, reclining face down on what appears to be the very same green, crisply hospital-cornered, bedspread – although this time on a single bed.

Much more intimate are Hockney’s etchings of male gay couples in bed together, honest and unerotic, from a collection of images entitled Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy. They’re remarkable for having been created in 1966, a year before the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised homosexuality (so long as the participants were in private and over 21).

And that’s the thing with Hockney – he’s ridiculously, endlessly versatile. If the rumours are true, we’re going to see some work that features bedrooms. Beyond that, we’re on our own – will they be traditional oils on canvas, etchings, or photographic works using the very latest cutting edge digital technology in ways only he could have thought of?

And will they be peaceful, still scenes of domestic bliss, or fierce political statements from an out-and-proud octogenarian?

We’ll keep you posted…

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