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Peter getting out of Nick's pool

David Hockney • Painting, 1966, 213×213.4 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Nude
Style of art: Art Nouveau
Technique: Acrylic
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1966
Size: 213×213.4 cm
Artwork in selections: 22 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Peter getting out of Nick's pool»

"Peter is getting out of Nick's pool." Is one of three iconic paintings by David Hockney along with “Big Splash” and "Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures)". All of them are united by the theme of the pool, which became the leader in the artist's work after moving from London to California in 1964. For two of them, the figure of Peter Schlesinger, the muse and Hoekney's beloved, is also common. They met at the University of California at Berkeley, where Hockney, 29, taught, and Schlesinger, 18, studied.

The canvas depicts a communal swimming pool of an apartment building in Los Angeles, where one of Hockney's friends lived - an art dealer and gallery owner Nick Wilder. The artist housed there from the summer of 1966 until the beginning of 1967, while simultaneously renting a dilapidated studio in the city center.

After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London in 1962, Hockney has already established himself as an enfant terrible of contemporary art. And last but not least, by its open homosexuality in a country where same-sex relations were criminalized (the corresponding article was partially decriminalized only in 1967). He dreamed of a world of warmth and pleasure, of California, which he saw in John Speech's magazines, films and gay novels - with palm trees, bathers, striped canopies and simple shapes; about the world, partly reminiscent of Nice Matisse. And I was glad to discover that in reality everything was as he imagined. It was then that Hockney made the main object of his paintings pools with sparkling blue water. In London, they were a luxury item, and in Los Angeles - quite common.

“Hockney wrote, painted, photographed or made engravings with images of swimming pools from the mid-1960s to the present day. The growth of his popularity with the public coincided with the first appearance of such images in his works. As an expatriate Briton living primarily in Los Angeles, he easily began to associate with the typical clichés of this sunny climate, chief among which is the pool, ”wrote American art critic Christopher Knight.

Although, at first glance, Hockey paintings with pools describe scenes of relaxation and luxury, the artist himself insisted that he had other intentions. He was interested, above all, the play of light and transmission in colors of endless patterns on a moving surface of water.

“I never thought that pool paintings were just about hedonistic pleasure,” he said. - They were about the surface of the water, about a very thin film, shimmering two-dimensional. What do you see? For example, once I emptied my pool and drew blue lines at the bottom. When the water is still, you see that in the depths of the line are clean and even. When someone swims, they start moving. But where are they going? If you dive, then no matter how rough the water is on the surface, the lines will again be smooth. They wriggled only on this thin film. This is the surface that fascinates me; and this is the essence of these paintings. ”

To create the work "Peter is selected from the pool of Nick" Hockney used the photo (as for the other pictures mentioned above). He copied the model of the sitter from a polaroid picture taken at the moment when a naked young man leaned on the hood of his sports car. In 2012, Schlesinger laughed in one of the interviews: “That's why the underwater part is not very well written - it was invented.”

The square format of the picture also sends the viewer to a polaroid picture - like an untouched canvas around the image, designed to “make it look more like a picture”. Hockney wanted to demonstrate the process of creating the canvas and the trick to which he resorted.

The canvas "Peter is selected from the pool of Nika" deeply congruent with the history of art and resembles classical images of bathers placed in an idyllic background, which have been found in Western painting since the Renaissance. This convention is a metaphor of not only harmonious relations between the human figure and nature, but also a representation of an unspoiled and pure world.

“Pictures with Hockney swimming pools are perhaps the most revealing in this respect, since they are modern adaptations of the traditional literary and pictorial theme of the Golden Age. Voluptuous, sybaritic bathers - the main symbol of this classic myth of origin, the myth of the lost pastoral Arcadia of peace and harmony, which contrasts sharply with the convulsively twitching world of history. The image functions as a rejection of the unclean everyday world and finds its hidden meaning in the gap between this Edenic origin and the crushing realities of modern life, ”writes Christopher Knight.

In 1967, Hockney's painting won the John Moors Award at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. This award, awarded every two years, was established in 1957 by a famous philanthropist, by whose name it was named. He often bought the winning work, and then transferred it to the museum. So it happened with the canvas "Peter is selected from the basin of Nika", which has been on permanent display of the institution since 1968.

Author: Vlad Maslov