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David Hockney: Early Reflections

Posted on Thursday 1st August 2013

'Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool' by David Hockney © David Hockney

Major exhibition at Walker Art Gallery

Images available on request

David Hockney is considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. A new exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery brings to together a unique selection of paintings and prints, which chart the early development of this iconic British artist.

'David Hockney: Early reflections' goes on display at the Walker Art Gallery from 11 October 2013 to 16 March 2014 under The Arts Council Collection Partnerships supported by Christie’s scheme.

The exhibition is part of National Museums Liverpool's Modern Masters series, part funded by the European Union - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Featuring work from the Walker’s own collection, including 'Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool', which won the John Moores Painting Prize in 1967, together with key pieces from the Arts Council Collection and other loans, the exhibition explores Hockney’s early influences.

With almost 40 pieces on display dating between 1960 to 1978, the exhibition is an insight into Hockney’s prodigious talent which was evident even as a student.

Through recurring obsessions such as the evolving references to his own homosexuality, depictions of the reflective qualities of water and his persistent return to portraiture, the exhibition reveals how his style, which flourished during the 1960s, had changed dramatically by the early 1970s.

Head of Fine Art, Ann Bukantas said: “David Hockney is one of the most important artists of our time. This exhibition goes back to the roots of his success, before he became an international star. We explore the influence of art school and life in London on Hockney’s drive to express a new artistic direction, his sexuality, and a burgeoning self-belief.

“The exhibition also follows his transformative move to sunny Los Angeles, where his work becomes more openly homoerotic and celebrates his glamorous location and way of life, alongside his rise as an international name.

“The Walker’s 'Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool' has a central role in the exhibition. As winner of the John Moores Painting Prize in 1967 it represents the success of this striking change in approach and technique.

“We are really excited to be working with the Arts Council Collection to include several important pieces, particularly the Cavafy series of prints and the major painting from his Royal College days, We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961).” 

Grouped thematically, the exhibition is divided into four sections:

• In the Mood for Love - This section looks at some of the major early paintings that Hockney produced at the Royal College of Art (1959-62). Influenced by the bohemian and creative atmosphere in London during the swinging 1960s, the work explores the ‘modern’ style Hockney had developed. Despite a repressive social backdrop, where homosexuality was still illegal, Hockney found the confidence to express his sexuality in an increasingly overt way within his college work. This section features a number of the Love Paintings, including the masterpiece 'We Two Boys Together Clinging' (1961) from the Arts Council Collection, 'Cliff' (1962) and 'Going to be Queen for Tonight' (1960).

• Picturing Poetry  - Nicely coinciding with the Greek culture ministry’s Year of Constantine Petrou Cavafy (1863-1933), this section looks at Hockney’s admiration for the poet. It includes twelve etchings for the book Illustrations for fourteen poems from Cavafy (1966), a translation of his homoerotic poems. Hockney used personal experiences with friends and lovers to imagine Cavafy’s tender scenes of doomed love between young men. To demonstrate Hockney’s skill and versatility as a draughtsman and printmaker, the Cavafy etchings are displayed alongside two illustrations for the Brothers Grimm tales, from the Walker’s collection.

• On Reflection  - Hockney’s water-themed paintings, particularly those of swimming pools are among his most renowned. This section deals with Hockney’s pre-occupation with the depiction of transparent surfaces, especially water, and his distinctive array of ‘visual signs’ with which to represent it. Around nine works in this section, including the iconic 'Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool' (1966); a fascinating study for 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures)' (1971/2) and a lithographic print of his poster design for 1972 Munich Olympics, combine an array of vivid colours.

• Familiar Faces  - Portraiture has always been central to Hockney’s work. Preferring to make portraits of people he knows, a selection of works from the Arts Council Collection introduces some of his early social circle, revealing the skill, sensitivity and psychological insight with which he represented them. In the early 1960s Hockney began a short-lived spell of experimenting with abstraction and still life. One of the outcomes of this period is the Art Council Collection’s painting 'Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices' (1965), a depiction of Hockney’s father, sat behind a pile of abstracted geometric shapes, and beneath a colourful arc. The painting responds to Cezanne’s idea that all nature can be reduced to cylinders, spheres and cones.

An audio guide will accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition is part of Liverpool’s Homotopia festival 2013.


The John Moores Painting Prize 2014 calls for entries is open from 22 July to 25 October 2013. More details:


Notes to editors

Artist biography

Born in Bradford in 1937, Hockney’s stellar reputation was established while he was still a student; his work was featured in several of the annual Young Contemporaries exhibitions, one of which heralded the birth of British Pop Art. He visited Los Angeles in 1964 and settled there soon after. He is closely associated with southern California and has produced a large body of work there over many decades. In recent years the artist has relocated to Bridlington, Yorkshire where his work has focused on documenting the rural landscape. The artist was elected a Royal Academician in 1991 and recently appointed a member of the Order of Merit by the Queen.

About the Arts Council Collection Partnerships supported by Christie’s

The Arts Council Partnerships supported by Christie’s is a partnership with four regional museums. During the four year scheme, which started in 2012, the partner museums – Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Manchester Art Gallery and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool – will create a dynamic programme of displays and exhibitions based on loans from the Arts Council Collection combined with their own collections.

Over the course of the scheme, the Arts Council Collection will also provide sustained curatorial and technical support in developing displays and exhibitions of works from the Collection, as well as offering a place on the Acquisitions Committee each year for one curator from a regional museum partner. The support from Christie’s for an initial period of two years will go directly to the museums towards curatorial research, transport, display and education.

Arts Council Collection which is run by Southbank Centre on behalf of Arts Council England, is one of Britain’s foremost national collections of post-war British Art. As a collection 'without walls', it has no permanent gallery; it can be seen on long term loan to museums, galleries, schools, hospitals, colleges and charitable associations and in touring exhibitions and displays at home and abroad.   It is also, importantly, one of the most widely circulated and easily accessible collection of its kind, with nearly 8000 works available for loan.  Established in 1946 to promote and enrich knowledge of contemporary art, the Collection continues to acquire works by artists, many at an early stage of their career, living and working in Britain and to foster the widest possible access to modern and contemporary across the UK. It includes work by Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, Henry Moore, Bridget Riley and Wolfgang Tillmans. For more information visit www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk


Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War and Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Christie’s has a global presence with 53 offices in 32 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in growth markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.


Homotopia is an arts and social justice organisation that draws on the LGBT experience to unite and regenerate communities through the production, promotion and commissioning of great art, heritage and culture for everyone. In November 2013, the Homotopia Festival will be celebrating its tenth anniversary with events staged across Liverpool.

ERDF in the Northwest

ERDF is making a real difference to people and businesses in the North West. With €755 million to invest between 2007 and 2013, ERDF is enhancing the competitiveness of the region’s economy by supporting growth in enterprise and employment.

ERDF in the North West is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government – for further information visit


About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. 

We attract more than three million visitors every year. Our venues are the International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, Sudley House, Border Force National Museum (Seized! The Border and Customs Uncovered), Walker Art Gallery and World Museum.

One of the finest art galleries in Europe, the Walker Art Gallery is home to renaissance masterpieces, Tudor portraits and one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art in the country. An outstanding display of contemporary art includes work by David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Banksy.

Walker Art Gallery William Brown Street, Liverpool     Admission FREE

Open 10am-5pm every day  Information 0151 478 4199

Website liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker