This autumn, The Hepworth Wakefield will present a major exhibition of early works by Alan Davie and David Hockney that will explore creative convergences between these major figures of post-war British painting.
In 1958, Alan Davie held his first retrospective exhibition at the former Wakefield Art Gallery. It went on to tour nationally, including to the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London – an iteration of the exhibition that is often cited as Davie’s “break-through” moment.
A young David Hockney, who had recently graduated from Bradford College of Art, visited the Wakefield exhibition and saw Davie talking about his work. This encounter was a pivotal influence on Hockney’s artistic development, offering early exposure to large-scale colourful abstract painting more commonly seen at the time in the small black-and-white reproductions of art magazines.
Alan Davie Self Portrait 1937 Oil on wood National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1997 © The Estate of Alan Davie
Alan Davie The Saint 1948 Oil on paper National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1997 © The Estate of Alan Davie
Alan Davie Crazy Gondolier 1960 Oil on canvas ©The Estate of Alan Davie. Image courtesy National Museum Wales
Alan Davie Cross for the White Birds 1965 Oil on canvas © The Estate of Alan Davie. Image courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield
Paintings that featured in Davie’s 1958 retrospective at Wakefield Art Gallery, including the large-scale three-metre-long painting Creation of Man (1957), will be brought together again for the first time in decades to recreate the power of their impact.
Shortly after Hockney’s encounter with Davie, he moved to London to take up a place at the Royal College of Art. Here he discarded realist figurative painting, as Davie had done, in favour of colourful, gestural works that combined abstraction with poetic text and symbolism.
David Hockney We Two Boys Together Clinging 1961 Oil on board 48 x 60″ © David Hockney Photo Credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London
David Hockney Man in a Museum (or You’re in the Wrong Movie) 1962 Oil on canvas 60 x 60″ © David Hockney Courtesy: The British Council Collection
David Hockney Flight Into Italy – Swiss Landscape 1962 Oil on canvas 72 x 72″ © David Hockney Photo Credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Collection Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf
The exhibition this October will bring together around 45 paintings, collages and drawings by Davie and Hockney. It will trace the parallel paths of these key figures of post-war British painting to reveal shared preoccupations with passion, love, sex and poetry as their work oscillated between figuration and abstraction.
Alan Davie and David Hockney: Early Works at The Hepworth Wakefield will run from 19 October 2019 until 19 January 2020 and will feature alongside an exhibition of paintings by American artist Christina Quarles. Discover more at hepworthwakefield.org.