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Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures)

Painting, 1972, 305×214 cm

Description of the artwork «Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures)»

Despite the diversity of David Hockney’s work, his most recognizable paintings are those of swimming pools. Bright sun, deep shadows, clear blue water and dense greenery... These canvases are imbued with a sense of blissful serenity. However, the Portrait of an Artist was painted during the period when Hockney was depressed after breaking up with his beloved Peter Schlesinger.

This work became a key element of Jack Hazan’s A Bigger Splash film of 1974. The canvas, which gave the name to the semi-documentary film, was painted by Hockney at the peak of his love. Hazan, who made the main emphasis on the homosexual love drama in his film, built the story around the Portrait of an Artist. The painting has become a symbol of alienation, the abyss that runs between once close people.

It took three years for Hazan to shoot his film. He snatched every opportunity to capture Hockney in a natural setting, with his real friends, at work, at social events. The artist often did not even suspect that he was under the camera’s sight. Abounding in naked men’s bodies and rather explicit scenes, devoid of pretense and theatricality, the movie turned out to be as documentary as possible and, as a result, deeply intimate.

When Hazan first showed the film to Hockney, he was shocked. The artist fell into a deep depression, he locked himself in his house for two weeks and cursed the day he met the director. He even tried to buy the footage and the edited film from Hazan so that the public would not see it, but the director was adamant. And the film became a kind of sensation. After watching, one of Hockney’s friends said that it was “more truthful than the truth itself”. Firstly, the film allowed a glimpse behind the veil of exclusive mystery surrounding the life of the bohemian public, and secondly, and more importantly, it spoke frankly about homosexual relationships. Hazan recalled that after the film had been released, young gay men began to visit the artist and thank him for helping other people see ordinary people in homosexuals.

On 15 November 2018, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) was sold at Christie’s New York for $ 90.3 million, making David Hockney the most expensive living artist on the planet.

Author: Yevheniia Sidelnikova



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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Genre scene

Style of art: Art Nouveau

Technique: Acrylic

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1972

Size: 305×214 cm

Artwork in selections: 56 selections