hockney splash
“A Bigger Splash” (1967)

It’s not quite summer yet, but it is an especially good time to celebrate the work of one of the art world’s most iconic artists, British-born David Hockney, whose two pieces shown here are among those featured through May 29 at London’s Tate Britain, in the largest retrospective to date of his long career.

Hockney’s pool paintings (in acrylic), created mostly in the ‘60s and ‘70s, occupy a well-known niche in his creative output, so memorably capturing the lazy ennui of L.A. life in that era; a stark palm tree – or two—and the sharp and masterful use of color (as seen above) allow no mistake as to their location. It’s a languorous realism that dives deep into the mind.

It’s also interesting that around the same period that Hockney began his foray into the architecture of the aquatic, the novelist John Cheever wrote his classic of suburban angst, The Swimmer (1964), set at the same time but in a different place, its message one of emptiness and underlying despair. Hockney’s timeless tableaux speak rather of the uncomplicated contentment to be found beneath superficiality; or, as expressed simply in the artist’s words, “Enjoyment of the landscape is a thrill.”

hockney portrait
“Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” (1972)
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