David Hockney Tate

Must see: David Hockney at Tate Britain

Got the February blues? Sick of the slate grey sky and dirty grey pavements? Then this season’s must-see exhibition is one for you. A retrospective of the works of David Hockney begins at Tate Britain this month, and for colour-lovers (or winter loathers) the artist’s brilliant back-catalogue of paintings is the perfect tonic for these drab times.

A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash 1967 David Hockney born 1937 Purchased 1981

Many of the paintings in the show are part of the iconic series made by Hockney in LA, most famous of which is A Bigger Splash, above. Its a world of sunshine, swimming pools and the pinks and yellows of Californian architecture and the work with which Hockney is perhaps most readily associated. Swimming pools have proved an enduring point of fascination in Hockney’s work, and the colours used in A Bigger Splash were bright and bold, reflecting the strong sunlight of California and the crisp, clean lines of the buildings – as well as his switch to the relatively new medium of acrylic. The blocks of colour in the picture were actually rollered, rather than painted, onto the canvas with the detail elements of the splash, the chair and the vegetation painted on to the canvas afterwards using small brushes.

Hockney Tate Britain

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972 Private Collection © David Hockney Photo Credit: Art Gallery of New South Wales / Jenni Carter


David Hockney Tate

David Hockney, Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Poool, 1966 © David Hockney/Collection: Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool

Hockney’s use of colour is also perhaps influenced by the fact that he has a form of synesthesia that means he sees colours in response to musical stimuli. Although not used directly in his paintings, this unusual relationship to colour is something he exploits in his designs for stage sets for ballet and opera, basing the colours for set designs on what he ‘sees’ while listening to the piece’s music.

David Hockney

David Hockney Garden with Blue Terrace 2015, Private Collection © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney

David Hockney, Model with Unfinished Self-portrait, 1977, private collection

As you can see in the image above, Hockney’s colours are even documented in some of his own paintings – the strong colours used in the whole painting are lined up on his desk in the background. And of course since 2009, Hockney has also fully embraced the vivid colours of the Brushes iPhone and iPad application in his work. The exhibition promises not just some vibrant hues but the chance to see how this master has used and adapted colour as his career has developed over the decades.

David Hockney is on at Tate Britain from 9 February to 29 May 2017 at Tate Britain.

Ros Anderson


Ros Anderson is an interiors journalist and blogger who has worked for The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Ideal Home and many more. In 2009 she co-founded cult interiors blog My Friend's House with Jill Macnair, as a place to write about design in a more honest, spontaneous and humorous way.

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