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David Hockney at the National Portrait Gallery is back

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Hurrah. David Hockney's curtailed National Portrait Gallery (NPG) exhibition has returned.

Opened in November 2023, David Hockney: Drawing from Life is a repeat-run and much-expanded exhibition than the one that was forced to close early at the London gallery due to the first UK COVID lockdown. That initial iteration was only open for just 20 days before it was forced to shut as restrictions kicked in.

The NPG's re-worked show features around 160 works from public and private collections from across the world, as well as from the David Hockney Foundation. Hockney has is also a lender of some works.

The exhibition traces the trajectory of Hockney’s practice, predominantly through his intimate portraits of five sitters: his friend, Celia Birtwell; his mother, Laura Hockney; his former partner and curator, Gregory Evans; his master printer, Maurice Payne; and Hockney himself.

Overall, the show explores the artist’s work over an incredible six decade career.

Two painted figures sitting on two sides of a table, there are no background details depicted
Lucie-Lune Lambouley and Louis-Martin Lambouley, 8th January 2022 by David Hockney. © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Jonathan Wilkinson, Collection of the artist

What do visitors see in the 2023 David Hockney exhibition at the NPG?

So what's new in this second chance show? Well, 33 new portraits painted at the artist’s Normandy studio between 2021 and 2022, are displayed for the very first time.

These new single and double portraits include depictions of the artist’s partner, Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima, and people from the local Normandy community. They were painted from life directly onto the canvas without any under drawing, and were completed in 2-3 sittings.

A visitor walks in front a row of same-sized portraits painted by David Hockney
David Hockney's Normandy portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. © David Parry

Without a doubt a highlight for many visitors out of these 33 new works will be the striking new portrait of superstar Harry Styles. The One Direction icon is captured in acrylic paint, and he sat for the work over two days in May last year when he visited Hockney’s studio in France.

Styles told British Vogue — who first exclusively revealed the news of this new work — that “it was a complete privilege" to be painted by Hockney.

The Normandy portraits — which the National Portrait Gallery have also published together in a standalone new book to accompany the show — mark a return to painting after a period spent capturing the landscape around his home in northern France on his iPad.

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In addition to the new works, other highlights include coloured pencil drawings created in Paris in the early 1970s; a selection of drawings from an intense period of self-scrutiny during the 1980s, when the artist created a self-portrait every day over a period of two months; and rarely seen works, including his pivotal A Rake’s Progress etching suite (1961-63), inspired by William Hogarth’s engraving series with the same title (1697-64).

There's also be ephemera documenting Hockney's relationships with the sitters, and the painting My Parents and Myself — an earlier version of My Parents in Tate’s collection.

A black and white drawing of David Hockney with the artist looking at the viewer wearing his glasses
Self Portrait 26th Sept. 1983 by David Hockney. © David Hockney. The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Announcing details of the exhibition's second run, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery said he was "delighted to be re-staging this major exhibition" and that it "makes good on a pledge I made to David in March 2020 that we would return to his wonderful exhibition in better days."

Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator of Contemporary Collections at the National Portrait Gallery said “Closing this five-star exhibition after just 20 days in 2020 was incredibly disappointing for the Gallery and its many visitors.

"Now revitalised with over thirty new energetic and insightful painted portraits of friends and visitors to the artist’s Normandy studio, it is a real privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with David Hockney again.”

How much are David Hockney tickets?

Tickets for the National Portrait Gallery's David Hockney exhibition are £21, but there are concessions from £10.50, and gallery members go free as usual.

David Hockney: Drawing from Life, supported by White & Case, runs at the National Portrait Gallery in London from 2 November 2023 until 21 January 2024. Buy the accompanying book here.

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