There are a lot of pieces of art in this exhibition, and many pieces that I haven’t seen before. Picasso was prolific, he had a very long productive span and it is interesting to see pieces here from each part of it.
His portraits are representative of his career in general, in that some of them appear disposable, some are sublime, but all are interesting. Some are interesting because they show his amazing technique, others because they give us insight into the character of the model and some because they shed light on his own disposition.
There are probably close to 100 portraits here. A cubist bust of Fernande Olivier is technically wonderful, a childlike painting of his daughter, Maya, at 2 is moving. A metal 2 dimensional bust of Jaqueline is clever and inventive.
There are many portraits of Olga, his wife, showing varying aspects of their relationship. The most famous of these is probably “Woman in a Hat” painted towards the end of their marriage which manages to be both beautiful and cruel.
There is also a doctored photograph of Esther Williams that is misogynistic and insulting.
I left the exhibition thinking that I really like Picasso the artist, but I doubt that I would have liked him in person.
Perhaps, this is what made him a great artist – he was able to display to us how he felt, but did not care how we felt about him.
It is a show that I would consider returning to, but £17.50 (without the expected £2 donation) a time, would discourage repeat visits. However, I felt it worth the money overall. The National Portrait Gallery is free (expected £2 donation) for general entry and is packed with lovely stuff.
The pictures at the head and foot of this article are self-portraits, at 15 and at 90.
This exhibition is like a scientific experiment into the nature of portrait painting.
All the portraits are exactly the same size and shape. They are all full body portraits of a subject sitting in the same, yellow cushioned, wooden chair. They all have roughly the same, green and blue, background and each one was painted over the course of 3 days. They are all very recent – some only painted in February and March this year. There are 83 paintings crammed together in 3 small rooms, the walls painted in a matt magenta. A couple of people are pictured twice and one person three times over the course of the exhibition.
The individual portraits themselves are very good; Hockney is a fine portrait artist, but this is a single piece of work and it is seeing the whole exhibition as a unit that transforms this into an exceptional show. The uniformity of the portraits in terms of size, colour, and time, makes one notice the differences between them; the pose, the clothes, the gaze.
I don’t think of it as 83 individual pictures, I see it as one portrait of 83 individual sittings.
This is David Hockney at his best; confident, relaxed, colourful, witty and experimental.
I left very happy.