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27 February 2020

David Hockney: Drawing from Life opens at the NPG

David Hockney: Drawing from Life opens at the NPG David Hockney: ‘Self-Portrait’ (1954). Collage on newsprint, 16 ½ x 11 ¾”. © David Hockney. Photo: Richard Schmidt. Collection: Bradford Museums & Galleries, UK.

David Hockney: Drawing from Life (27 February–28 June 2020) at the National Portrait Gallery in London is already delighting critics, including Jonathan Jones in The Guardian: “This exhibition reveals, with total freshness, an artist full of curiosity about himself and other people. Hockney rejoices in invention but never loses sight of his simple subject: being alive.”

This is the first major exhibition devoted to Hockney's drawings in more than 20 years and it explores him as a draughtsman from the 1950s to the present by focusing on depictions of himself and a small group of sitters close to him: his muse, textile designer Celia Birtwell; his mother, Laura Hockney; and friends, the curator, Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne.

The exhibition traces Hockney’s practice by revisiting these five subjects over a period of six decades. Highlights include a series of new portraits; coloured pencil drawings created in Paris in the early 1970s; and composite Polaroid portraits from the 1980s. His many self-portraits provide, writes Alastair Sooke in The Daily Telegraph, “the show’s principal subplot – a compelling, coming-of-age drama, as a nerdy-looking Yorkshire kid, his dark hair arranged in a pudding-bowl cut, refashions himself.” And Jonathan Jones says, "The intensity of Hockney’s self-inspection, fag in mouth, bears comparison with Rembrandt. When an artist looks so hard into the mirror, we share what they see – we are invited into the undisguised truth.”

David Hockney: Drawing from Life is accompanied by a 208-page catalogue. It includes an essay and an interview with the artist by the curator Sarah Howgate (NPG), plus an essay by British Museum curator Isabel Seligman explores the relationship between Hockney, Ingres and Picasso drawings.

• There is more Hockney at Annely Juda in Mayfair with the exhibition David Hockney: Video Brings Its Time to You, You Bring Your Time to Paintings and Drawings (28 February to 25 April 2020).