Hockney Spring

3 March 2014
Ben Pentreath

You’d have felt a bit sad to be an old gold-framed Old Master hanging at the Dulwich Picture Gallery this weekend.
P1000834The people were queuing to see Hockney. I’m afraid everything else was a bit ignored, which is something which probably wouldn’t make David feel especially happy.

But who can blame us? I’m sorry, but nothing quite puts a smile on your face on the first weekend of spring like a Hockney print.

P1000853Starting with David’s self-printed Diploma, uncertain that he was going to officially graduate.

P1000854 P1000855I love the typography of A Rake’s Progress, documenting Hockney’s arrival in New York in the early 60s.

P1000856 P1000861 P1000862 P1000864Beautiful images and a beautiful hang in the following gallery.

Half way through any tour of the Dulwich Picture Gallery is a little incursion into one of the most beautiful architectural spaces of English classicism, Soane’s perfect Mausoleum for Sir Francis Bourgeois, founder of the gallery. The room is suffused with an unworldly yellow light, which glows through the hidden coloured glass lantern beyond. Not unlike, in a different way, Barragan’s hidden yellow glass skylights at home in Mexico City…

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P1000875 P1000876A beautiful lithograph of Peter Schlesinger, of whom more in a moment.

P1000880 P1000877I loved ‘A Hollywood Collection’, which strangely I’d never seen before, envisaging an instant collection of ART for a Hollywood starlet… Perfect. Read the titles.P1000879

It was at this point that a rather bossy guard (well, to be fair, I suppose she was just doing her job) rushed over to tell me that I wasn’t meant to be taking photos. The funny thing was I’d been taking photos for the last forty five minutes. But luckily I’d just taken this, of my favourite print in the whole exhibition, Coloured Flowers made of Paper and Ink…  If you wanted to make me very happy, please will you deliver this to Queen Square soonest?P1000881

P1000882The colouring pencils in the gallery lobby felt very appropriate.P1000893The exhibition poster, by contrast, felt a bit sad. I rather wished that Hockney could have been persuaded to draw something, and write the title, like the days of old. A missed opportunity.


P1000887Soane’s brick and stone abstractions in the facade of the gallery.  I was intrigued to discover that the doors to the mausoleum are completely fake. Behind them is a narrow slot, the back of the door forming a secret canvas for a bit of random graffiti. Who knew?



The yellow glazed windows read dark orange when viewed through one another.

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Back home, it was time to get out two favourite books. Hockey, by Hockney, and the brilliant ‘A Chequered Past’, Peter Schlessinger’s wonderful photographic diary of the 60s and 70s, one of my favourite books of all time. Hard to get hold of. We used to sell it in the shop, but it’s now out of print I think.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged it before.  Haven’t I?  Is this possible?

P1000900Hockney at Powis Terrace. Luke in the decoration department has been wondering what his spring look is this year.  I think Peter provides a bit of inspiration:


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I’m addicted to this image of the lunch table at Chateau Moutin, 1977: …. “Baron Philippe de Rothschild was the most thoughtful and stylish of hosts. He was also kind and completely unsnobbish and served the most amazing food and, of course, incomparable wines of rare vintages, served in small quantities. His late wife Pauline’s traditions were carried on, such as maintaining a special garden for growing her famous table decorations, and taking every meal in a different spot, as there was no dining room”.

P1000909And of course, I’m addicted to this picture of Min Hogg in 1978. Cool.

P1000910It suddenly occurred to me that the Josef Franck chair, and my socks, and yellow ochre trousers, were channeling a little bit of Hockney at that moment. Perhaps, it has to be said, not unintentionally. Happy first day of Spring.


12 comments on this post

David Decker-Dranesays:

Just ordered the Schlessinger! 🙂

Peter Crispsays:

In the ancient world,false doors acted as doorways between this world and the afterlife as Soane would have known and therefore perhaps deliberately incorporated.

Clever frames in the Hollywood Collection, and although I do like Hockney’s work, it is a joy to see Soane’s here too. Related to that, I came across a rather splendid item at auction the other day, which I’ll blog about, but sadly am unable to brag about.

Ochre trousers. Me too recently, and now joined by a pair of cobalt blue; well obviously not at the same time.

are you tired of my gushing yet!?
this post is a GIFT!
how i love david hockney.
i have a print from his california years hanging above my fireplace. it’s the blue swimming pool with yellow diving board.
i carted it all around breckenridge where i found it. carried it with me on the plane. it never ceases to bring me JOY!
and you…
and your ochre trousers and hockney socks. YOU.
think i’m in love. LOL.
thank you!
ok. gush over. xo

I also just saw the “Bigger Exhibition” in San Francisco on the weekend before it closed, maybe Mlleparadis and I passed each other in the crowd. It was beautiful and made me long for seasons, rather than the (pleasant) monotony of California weather.


Oh yes, a very happy first day of Spring to you. And to us still stifling out here in the Antipodes, a very happy First Sightings of Autumn. Your turn for the sun, which has been somewhat over-enthusiastic for somewhat too long.

I met Min Hogg once, when I won a WOI design scholarship. She looked a little different then, but still cool, in a completely individual way. I don’t think she enjoyed the occasion much, though, and neither did I.

This post clarified for me one of the things I like about coming here to read. It’s the gentle rituals and sense of order you describe – Hockney on the first weekend of Spring – that echo the seasons which you so beautifully chart.

just saw the “bigger exhibition” last month (as it was closing) in San Francisco – there were many many smiling faces in attendance. and so good to know chequered past is still available. that cecil beaton/hockney portrait has to be one of the greatest of all time. happy spring!


A Chequered Past is still in print (and I’ve just ordered the last copy on Amazon!)


Won’t be able to attend the Hockney exhibit, so thank you for the (illicit) images!

Ben, I absolutely LOVE A Chequered Past! Piers gave me a copy a few years ago… That photo of Cecil and David is my favourite. Definitely good for springtime outfit inspiration.

Happy first day of spring to you too, Ben.
I shall have to add ‘A Chequered Past’ to my wish list, the photographs are wonderful. Min Hogg looking particularly stylish and enigmatic, and also Beaton in that velvet suit – fantastic.

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