Sunday, December 31, 2017

Art Eyewitness Looks at the Art Scene in 2017

Reflections on the Art Scene during 2017

By Ed Voves
Photos by Anne Lloyd

The art world commemorated the life of sculptor, Auguste Rodin, in 2017. Rodin died one hundred years ago, as did Edgar Degas. The "War to End All Wars" was raging in all its pointless fury, destroying much of the civilization that Rodin and Degas had enriched with their works of art. The death of these great artists represented the end of an era and it is only natural to look back on their achievements as counterpoints to the mindless waste of life that was World War I.

To "look back" comes naturally to human beings. One can look back with nostalgia or with hesitation or "look back in anger" as in the case of John Osborne's 1950's play. We live a lot of our lives, toeing the water of the future, glancing over our shoulders at the past.

One of Rodin's greatest works, small in scale but astonishing in its power, treats such a moment of looking back. Orpheus and Eurydice depicts the moment when the mythological hero, Orpheus, makes the fatal mistake of checking if his wife has escaped from Hades. 

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), Detail of Auguste Rodin's Orpheus and Eurydice, 1893

Orpheus' bid to rescue Eurydice from Hades depended on not look upon her until she is safely beyond the gate of Hades. Yet, on the brink of escape and triumph, he looks back -thus dooming Eurydice to oblivion.

Like smoke dissolving into empty air,                                                                                Passed and was sundered from his sight ...                                                                                    
Virgil, Georgics, Book IV, lines 501-502, J.B. Greenough Translation, 1900

Orpheus and Eurydice is on display in an excellent exhibition honoring Rodin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on view to January 15, 2018. Rodin's works appear in all their glorious variety - sketches, plaster models, finished sculptures -  in the Met's B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Gallery. Down the hall is an exhibit of the drawings (plus a few sculptures) of a man with whom Rodin is often compared: Michelangelo. 

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer is one of 2017's stellar exhibitions. The lighted photo version of the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes is a spectacular feature of the exhibit in the Metropolitan's Tisch gallery.  

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017) Gallery view of Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer 

As magnificent as this recreation of Michelangelo's magnum opus is, the really significant feature of the exhibit is the rare opportunity to study drawings by the great Florentine master of disegno.

The art of disegno or drawing was so omnipresent in the exhibits that featured in Art Eyewitness that this proved to be the dominant theme for 2017. 

There were outstanding exhibits of painting, sculpture, photography, fashion and ceramics during 2017, too. The National Gallery of Art in Washington reawakened memories of one of their greatest triumphs, the fabled 1995 Vermeer exhibit, with a superb presentation of Dutch Golden Age painting, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry (October 22, 2017 - January 21, 2018)

Johannes Vermeer, The Astronomer, 1668

The Vermeer show came close to rivaling the 1995 exhibit, but it is worth remembering that in 2016, the National Gallery presented Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt which emphasized the role of sketching and draughtmanship in seventeenth century Holland. 

Time and again, 2017 exhibitions dealing with drawings delivered the greatest impact. Drawing, "the pencil of nature" as it was called during the eighteenth century, comes closest to the individual artist's perception of the world as he or she directly sees it.

To make a drawing is an act of looking back at nature or at a person we esteem without experiencing the tragic fate of Orpheus and Eurydice. Drawings are investments of time, talent, energy and belief in the future.

Two exhibitions at the Morgan Library and Museum during 2017 proved the power of drawing with special force. 

The highlight of Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden at the Morgan (February 3 - May 14, 2017) was supposed to be François Boucher's The Triumph of Venus, 1740. This painting was the pride and joy of the Swedish emissary to the court of Versailles, Count Carl Gustaf Tessin (1696-1770). Tessin also purchased superb drawings - and nearly bankrupted himself in the process - by Rembrandt, Dürer, Watteau and others. These drawings are so far above Boucher's erotic "eye candy" in quality that I spent most of my time studying them rather than the voluptuous Venus and her minions.                                                                         
Of course, Rembrandt, Dürer and Watteau are pretty stiff competition for any artist to encounter. However, I felt the same about the drawings of an obscure French artist, 
Nicolas de Plattemontagne (1631–1706) when compared to Boucher or other French eighteenth century painters like Fragonard. I had never even heard of Nicolas de Plattemontagne before seeing this magnificent study of hands and drapery at another Morgan exhibit, Poussin, Claude, and French Drawing in the Classical Age, June 16 - October 15, 2017. 

Nicolas de Plattemontagne, Study of St. Agnesca. 1680

In popular estimation, French art of the seventeenth century usually ranks well-below Dutch art of the same period. The Morgan exhibit of French drawing was a revelation not because it proved the facility of Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain in drawing. That hardly needs emphasizing. Rather, by showcasing an unknown (to me at least) artist like De Plattemontagne, the importance that was attached to drawing by the Academic establishments of Europe was highlighted and underscored.

To be a successful artist in the Western world between the Renaissance and the Second World War, you needed to be skillful in drawing. It says something about the crisis of confidence in the West today, that the importance of drawing well is no longer insisted upon as a hallmark of a successful artist.

This comment is not intended as an editorial rant. There are still many great artists, technically proficient and artistically inspired. 

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) David Hockney at the Metropolitan Museum, Nov. 20, 2017

It was a great experience to attend the press preview in November 2017 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the David Hockney exhibit. Hockney made an appearance at the preview, a moment I will long cherish. 

To everyone's delight, Hockney made the rounds, subjecting himself to a barrage of digital cameras and phones. There is certain appropriateness to this, as Hockney has been a bold innovator using everything from a Polaroid camera to the iPad and iPhone to further his explorations of landscapes and people.

Hockney remains a staunch believer in the discipline of drawing. "Teaching someone to draw," Hockney affirms, "is teaching them to look."

I came across this quote in a book I read while working on my review of the Hockney exhibition: Martin Gayford's, A Bigger Picture: Conversations with David Hockney (Thames & Hudson, 2016 edition). Gayford and Hockney are a brilliant team and their engaging dialogue on the nature of art is hugely enjoyable and thought provoking. 

The Yorkshire-born artist told Gayford that he believed one of his ancestors had been "a cave artist who liked making marks on the wall." In short, Hockney's distant relative had been an experimenter in art, innovating with a piece of chalk the way Hockney has adapted the iPhone to be his sketchbook. 

Yet, Hockney does not believe that new modes of technology will make traditional drawing or painting obsolete. Rather, drawing and painting are primal modes of human expression. Mass media like films and newspapers are being edged aside by the iPhone and the iPad.  

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), David Hockney's Contre-Jour in the French Style,1974

Hockney believes that drawing and painting will endure. The whole person is engaged in these modes of artistic expression, especially in drawing. Hockney confided to Gayford:

When you are drawing, you are always one or two marks ahead. You are always thinking. 'After what I'm doing here I'll go there and there.' It's like chess or something. In drawing I've always thought economy of means was a great quality - not always in painting, but always in drawing. It's breathtaking in Rembrandt, Picasso and van Gogh. To achieve that is hard work, but stimulating: finding how to reduce everything you've looked at to just lines -  lines that contain volume in them.

Along with seeing Hockney at the Metropolitan Museum, my wife Anne and I met one of the great nature photographers of the present age, Michael Nichols, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nichols' photos are awesome (for once the word is used accurately). 

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), Portrait of Michael Nichols

Nichols' stunning images of the remnant of Planet Earth's undomesticated animals were displayed in brilliant contrast to selected works of art from the Philadelphia Museum of Art collection. Wild: Michael Nichols, as the exhibit was called, was the big summer exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Then it traveled to the National Geographic Society Museum in Washington D.C. where it will be on view until January 12, 2018.

Wild or domesticated, every animal is a unique individual. Each animal exerts a dynamic presence in the world and in the lives of those humans lucky to create a bond or relationship with them. Anne and I were blessed to enjoy the friendship, support and example of Lily for nearly sixteen years. Lily, the Queen, could only be described as "indomitable."

One of my favorite pictorial themes is the story of St. Jerome and the Lion. Lily was our Lion. Like St. Jerome's companion, who had a thorn in his paw that Jerome removed, Lily faced many physical challenges. She survived a stroke two years ago which left her limping but unbowed.

Anne Lloyd Photo (2015), Lily.

Lily was the guardian of my wife's painting studio just as St Jerome's Lion guarded his study. Lily certainly ran a "good ship"  and Anne was never without companionship as she created her beautiful art.

On December 19th, we had to save Lily from further physical suffering. Sadly, there was no thorn for us to remove that would enable Lily to resume her watch in the studio. We had to free Lily's spirit to spare her pain and now Lily's spirit is free. 

Art is an act of freeing the spirit. Art enables us to engage the creative energies within ourselves, letting these spirits express themselves. And these spirits, once engaged will emerge, ready, willing and able to assert beauty in an often ugly, uncaring world.

2017 was a difficult year in many ways. Yet, the creative spirits were always in evidence in our lives. One such magic moment occurred when a monarch butterfly paid a late autumn visit to the zinnias in our neighbor's garden. 

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), Butterfly Garden

Anne snapped this marvelous photo. It is proof, if any is necessary, that life's "wild"  moments  - and beautiful ones - are not as rare as we sometimes mistakenly think. 

May the coming year, 2018, provide us all with many such moments.


Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved  Photos courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City and Anne Lloyd

Introductory Image:
Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), Gallery view of at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, showing Auguste Rodin's Orpheus and Eurydice, modeled ca. 1887, carved 1893. Marble: 48 3/4 × 31 1/8 × 25 3/8 in., 856 lb. (123.8 × 79.1 × 64.5 cm, 388.3 kg) Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910. Accession Number:10.63.2

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), Detail of Auguste Rodin's Orpheus and Eurydice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017) Gallery view of Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer 

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675) The Astronomer, 1668. Oil on canvas: 51.5 × 45.5 cm (20 1/4 × 17 15/16 in.) Musée du Louvre, Département des Peintures, Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre)/Franck Raux. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Nicolas de Plattemontagne (French, 1631-1706) , Study of St. Agnes, with a Secondary Study of Her Hand Holding a Palm, ca. 1680. Red and white chalk The Morgan Library & Museum. Purchased on the E. J. Rousuck Fund, the Seligman Fund,and the Fellows Acquisition Fund; 2015.28

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) David Hockney at the Metropolitan Museum, Nov. 20, 2017. Digital Photo.  Copyright of Anne Lloyd, all rights reserved.

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), David Hockney's Contre-Jour in the French Style (Against the Day dans le Style-Francais),1974. Oil on canvas: 83 x 83 cm. Ludwig Museum-Museum of Contemporary Art, Budepest

Anne Lloyd Photo (2017), Portrait of Michael Nichols. Copyright of Anne Lloyd, all rights reserved

Anne Lloyd, Lily, 2015. Copyright of Anne Lloyd, all rights reserved

Anne Lloyd, Butterfly Garden, 2017. Copyright of Anne Lloyd, all rights reserved

Monday, December 25, 2017

Religion in Early America at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Religion in Early America

Smithsonian National Museum of American History 

June 28, 2017 -  June 3, 2018

Reviewed by Ed Voves

On his way to take the Oath of Office as President of the United States in February 1861, Abraham Lincoln stopped at Trenton, New Jersey, to address the legislature of that state. After alluding to the great Revolutionary War battles of Trenton and Princeton, Lincoln made a reference to the religious ideals of the American people, as well as the tense political situation. 

I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people ...

God's "almost chosen people" are the subject of an excellent, year-long, exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Beginning with the arrival of Christianity in what is now the United States, Religion in Early America surveys a long span of history from the early decades of the 1600's to just before the Civil War.

Gallery view of the Smithsonian exhibit, Religion in Early America

From the establishment of the first English "plantations" or settlements in the New World, Protestantism defined the spiritual expression and codes of morality of the majority of "early" Americans. However, the idea of an "established church" never took hold, either in the  English-speaking colonies as a collective entity or in the individual "plantations."

Diversity categorized the religious lives of "early" Americans. Dissent and divisiveness affected virtually every denomination at some point during the long period covered by the exhibition. Even the Society of Friends was periodically embroiled in controversy. 

Edward Hicks (1780-1849), painted sixty-two versions of the Bible verse from the Book of Isaiah (11: 6-8) which proclaimed "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid." Hicks, a Quaker from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, did not live in such a "Peaceable Kingdom" himself. The Quakers were bitterly divided by a doctrinal dispute, sparked by the "inner light" teachings of Hicks' cousin, Elias Hicks, which many interpreted as contradicting established rules of religious observance.

Religious controversies, long a feature of European society, soon left their mark on the fledgling colonies. Some of the ruling elites made concerted efforts to enforce conformity, especially in Puritan New England.

The exhibit highlights two artifacts that testify to this struggle. On display are the chalice of John Winthrop (1588-1649), the brilliant "enforcer" of Puritan orthodoxy in Massachusetts, and the compass - sundial of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island. 

Roger William's Compass-Sundial, 1630-1635

Roger Williams (1603-1683) was a Puritan clergyman of radical views. Refusing to adhere to the orthodox Calvinism of the Puritan elite, Williams was banished from Massachusetts in 1635. Williams used this compass to explore sites in the wilderness to build a refuge for fellow victims of Winthrop's implacable enmity.

Religion in Early America also examines Native American religious practice, the fascinating story of how religion has shaped the African-American struggle for justice and the story of America's Jewish community, small in numbers and hugely significant in patriotism and public service. 

Noah’s Ark Playset, 1828

All of the exhibition artifacts are well-chosen to illustrate the profound religiosity and cultural diversity of colonial America and the early Republic. This toy ark, intended for Sabbath Day play, shows how seriously people took religious observance.

However, the organizational framework of Religion in Early America is open to question.  The curators, faced with so many "varieties of religious experience" (to borrow the title of William James' famous book) organized the exhibit on a geographical basis. 

Regional factors, rather than adhering to a timeline, provides the focus of the exhibit. For the early chapters of American religious history, regionalism works as a satisfactory method to organize the great mass of material. As the pace and scope of America's development increased, however, regionalism's usefulness falters.  

The Great Awakening evangelical movement of the 1740's was the first widespread event in American history. The preaching and published sermons of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards inspired congregations from New Hampshire to Georgia. The Great Awakening was a precursor to the political Revolution that took place thirty years later. 

Following the Great Awakening, regionalism steadily declined as a factor in American religious life. The life of Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) illustrates this trend.

Lucretia Mott was born in Nantuckett, Massachusetts fifty years after the Great Awakening. Her austere bonnet is on display in the section of the exhibit devoted to New England. This is misleading placement. Though born in New England, Mott was hardly more than an "ex-pat" from that region.

Bonnet belonging to Lucretia Mott, c.1850-1880

Mott, one of the greatest Abolitionist leaders, was educated in New York and resided for most of her life in Philadelphia - when she was not travelling around the U.S. or visiting England in order to preach the cause of freedom for African-Americans and later the right to vote for women. 

Mott was a national figure, indeed, an international force for good. She transcended state borders, appealing to hearts and minds across the nation and the world.

Religion in Early America is too important an exhibition to get side-tracked by its regional orientation. A better technique to appreciate its many treasures is to focus on selected objects as they strike your interest and then relate these to a similar - or a very different - artifact. There are certainly plenty of outstanding exhibit treasures to compare and contrast.

One of the most intriguing displays in the exhibit is a a small beribboned box containing two crucifixes and a religious medal worn by the African-American, Roman Catholic nun, Elizabeth Lange (later Mother Mary Lange). These were discovered when the body of Mother Lange was exhumed as part of the process of officially bestowing sainthood upon her.

Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange's Crucifixes and religious medal

Born in Cuba, Elizabeth Lange (1794-1882), devoted herself to teaching children of African-descent in Baltimore. In 1828, a French priest,  Father James Joubert, supported Lange and three other devout African-American women in founding a religious order of nuns, the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

In 1836, a school building run by the Oblate sisters was opened and, for a time, achieved considerable success. The 1840's were a decade of severe economic instability following the Panic of 1837. Financial support for Mother Lange and her sisters diminished. At one point, they were forced to ask permission from Church authorities in Baltimore to beg on the streets to support their school.
A German-born priest of the Redemptorist order, Father Thaddeus Anwander, came to their aid and the Oblate sisters were saved from financial ruin. Their school and mission expanded to other cities in the U.S., and later to Cuba, until Casto's communist regime forced them out, and Costa Rica where the Oblate Sisters still flourish.

By way of comparison with Mother Lange's crucifixes, the saddlebags of an itinerant Methodist preacher serve as an excellent counterpoint. 

Freeborn Garrettson’s Saddlebags, 18th Century

Freeborn Garretson (1752–1827) was born in Maryland, where Mother Lange was later to work. When he inherited several slaves, he experienced a spiritual vision which turned him into an ardent abolitionist. Garretson's crusading zeal encouraged the emancipation movement in Maryland and Delaware. Among those set free was Richard Allen (1760-1831) who later founded Mother Bethel Church in Philadelphia in 1794, the first independent African-American church in the U.S.

Another treasure of the exhibition is the Torah scroll from Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City. During the Revolutionary War, the British Army occupied New York in 1776. Congregation Shearith Israel's synagogue was looted by British soldiers and this Torah scroll, and one other, were desecrated. In an effort to regain community support, the British high command ordered the offending soldiers flogged and one of them died from his wounds.

Shearith Israel Torah Scroll, 18th century

Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1654, the first Jewish congregation to be established in North America. These Torah scrolls were carefully preserved, though longer fit for actual religious services, as relics of the storied past of this historic faith community.

The history of American religion does not always yield its secrets so readily as Mother Lange's crucifixes or the Congregation Shearith Israel Torah scrolls. The material remains of religious movements - a book of sermons or a painting of an event in sacred history - can appear as arcane, almost alien artifacts to modern day museum goers.

Thomas Jefferson solved the problem of religious doctrine by literally cutting out of the Bible all that he refused to believe, including the miracles performed by Jesus. Jefferson produced an abridged version of the New Testament gospels, 84 pages in length, with all of the "nonsense" excised with a pen knife.

Thomas Jefferson's The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (1820)

The Jefferson Bible or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (1820) was never published in Jefferson's lifetime or for many decades thereafter. Jefferson's original copy is on view in the exhibit. It is a rare treat to see such a fabled treasure, but it is disturbing too.

Jefferson was the greatest political thinker to ever occupy the White House. As a man who embodied the Age of Reason, Jefferson could hardly have remained untouched by the secularizing philosophy of his era. Yet, cutting-out the unpalatable passages of the Bible was disturbingly like the willful mishandling of the escalating controversy over slavery. 

Jefferson and most of the other leaders of the new United States were deeply troubled by the moral and political implications of slavery. Yet, they devoted little effort to redress this wrong. Believing that the inherent strengths of the nation would suffice, the Founders trusted that slavery would wither away on its own. A nation of small farmers would arise. Reason would triumph.

None of this happened. The "Era of Good Feelings," during which the aged Jefferson worked on his Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, lasted but a few short years.The scandal of slavery in the land of freedom could not be brushed aside.

Along with Jefferson's The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, the exhibit displays the Bible used for George Washington's inauguration as the nation's first president on April 30, 1789. This copy of the Bible was loaned to Washington by the St. John’s Masonic Lodge in New York City. Printed in London in 1765, it is a King James Version Bible, Old and New Testament with Apocrypha. In a thoroughly eighteenth century touch, an appendix with historical and scientific data was included.

Washington Inaugural Bible, owned by St. John’s Masonic Lodge, NYC, since 1770.

Washington selected Genesis 49 as the chapter to be opened upon which he would place his hand. This was the Bible passage in which the dying patriarch, Jacob, blesses and admonishes his sons, the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Washington, often ridiculed (behind his back) for his lack of education, chose a "text" of special relevance for the thirteen "tribes" engaged in forming a new nation - and for us, their descendants and heirs. 

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this it is that their father spake unto them, and blessed them: every one according to his blessing he blessed them.

One can only hope that the Smithsonian will create a follow-up exhibition to Religion in Early America. The story of how the religious principles of God's "almost chosen people" were put to the test as they sought a "new birth of freedom" is ever timely. 

Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved 
Images, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.  

Introductory Image:                                                                                                          Edward Hicks (American, 1780 -1849) Peaceable Kingdom, c. 1834. Oil on canvas:            74.5 x 90.1 cm (29 5/16 x 35 1/2 in.)  National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch 1980.62.15                                                        

Smithsonian Institution, Photo (2017) Gallery view of Religion in Early America at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Roger William's Compass-Sundial, 1630-1635. Made in the United Kingdom. Brass: Height:.875 in x Width:2.5 in. Rhode Island Historical Society 1902.3.1  Gift of Mrs. Sophia Augusta Brown, 1902

Noah’s Ark Playset, 1828.  Made in the United Kingdom. Loan from collection of Judy and Jim Konnerth

Bonnet belonging to Lucretia Mott, c.1850-1880. Buckram covered with gray-green silk, handsewn. Brim lined with white silk. National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Behring Center. Gift of Lucretia Mott Churchill Jordan

Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange's Crucifixes and medal, 19th century. Two crucifixes and a religious metal. Loan from the  Oblate Sisters of Providence,  Baltimore, MD

Freeborn Garrettson’s Saddlebags, 18th Century. Loan from C. Wesley Christman Archives, New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church                                
Shearith Torah Scroll, 18th century. Loan from Congregation Shearith Israel, New York City

Thomas Jefferson, (American 1743-1826) The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, c. 1819-1820. Red Morocco goatskin leather, handmade wove paper, iron gall ink: .8.3 in × 5.2 in × 1.3 in (21.1 cm × 13.2 cm × 3.3 cm) Smithsonian Institution, acquired in 1895

Washington Inaugural Bible. King James Version with Printed by Mark Baskett, London, 1767. Presented by Jonathan Hampton, 1770, to St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, New York City. On loan from St. John’s Lodge Masonic Lodge  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

David Hockney at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

David Hockney

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
November 27, 2017 - February 25, 2018

Reviewed by Ed Voves
Original Photos by Anne Lloyd

It is premature to use the word "retrospective" in regard to the life work of David Hockney. The major new Hockney exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is best thought of in terms of the word "reappraisal." Brilliant works are on view, lots of new insights for the taking - and no end in sight to Hockney's creative power. 

David Hockney at the Met appeared at Tate Britain earlier in 2017. The subtitle of the Tate show was well-chosen: Sixty Years of Work. This brilliantly-curated exhibit surveys every phase of Hockey's prodigious career, from his "five minutes" of Pop Art in the early 1960's to the current landscapes of his native Yorkshire like A Closer Winter Tunnel, February-March, painted in 2006. 

To the delight of journalists and the Metropolitan staff, Hockney appeared at the Met's press preview shortly before Thanksgiving. Dressed as if he had just come in from the tree-lined lanes near his home in Bridlington, Yorkshire, Hockney seemed a bit out of place in the crowded museum gallery. But when he looked up from under the brim of his cap, the probing gaze of a great artist was very much in evidence.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) David Hockney at the Metropolitan Museum, Nov. 20, 2017     
Hockney was born in 1937. He is one of the last generation in Britain born before the advent of television. Hockney grew-up looking at the "big picture" - of nature and the movies, to which he has been addicted since childhood. This is an important point which explains much of the form and content of his art. 

Hockney emphasized his life experiences in a series of interviews in 2006 with the British art historian and critic, Martin Gayford. These interviews  were published in the book, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney (Thames & Hudson, 2016, 2nd edition).
Hockney is well-versed in art history and he quoted to Gayford the proverbial wisdom of Chinese sages that artists "need three things for paintings: the hand, the eye, and the heart."  

All three in combination - the hand, the eye and the heart - are necessary. Two won't do. 

Hockney  believes that this ancient wisdom is "very, very good." From the incredible array of works on view at the Met, it is clear that he possesses all three attributes in abundance, along with amazing resilience and vitality.
"I seem to have more energy than I did a decade ago, when I was sixty," Hockney told Gayford. "The Chinese are very good on the subject of art. Another saying of theirs I very much like is that painting is an old man's art, meaning that the experience of life and looking at the world accumulates as you get older."

Hockney's first major works from the early 1960's show references to the color field painting of Abstract Expressionists like Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella. These "Ab Ex" elements were integrated into works bearing strong figurative and narrative content.  Hockney's Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians,1965, is a prime example of his acknowledgement of the waning influence of "Ab Ex" art as the 1950's gave way to the "swinging 60's.".

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) David Hockney’s Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians,1965

Hockney came of age just as it became obvious that "Ab Ex" was not to be going to become the new, universal classicism. Hockney dabbled with Pop art too, as can be seen in the painting of a box of tea packets, Typhoo Tea, the band he drank at home in Yorkshire.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) 
David Hockney’s Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style,1961

Hockney's Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style was painted while he was a student at the Royal College of Art. It was one of four works, each painted in a different style, that Hockney exhibited in the 1962 Young Contemporaries student show.

Right from the start, Hockey demonstrated that he could master any technique. This early exhibit also demonstrated that he was going to paint like nobody but David Hockney.

If one is going to focus on a definitive influence on Hockney, I think his comments to Gayford about the power of cinema are worthy of consideration. Growing up in Bradford, Hockey went to the movies regularly, as most people did before television. He and his family sat in the cheap seats, close to the screen. Immersed in the "big picture," the young Hockney developed an eye for detail.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017)
Detail of David Hockney’s Self Portrait 30th Sept. 1983

"I've always had intense pleasure from looking...," Hockney commented to Gayford. 
"Looking is a very positive act. You have to do it deliberately."

In speaking with Gayford, Hockney compared this super-engaged attentiveness with the sharpened perception of combat troops. In the battle zone, every nerve of a soldier's eyes is engaged in detecting the presence of danger. Hockney told Gayford that he was impressed with the term that American GIs in Vietnam used to describe such heightened visual sensitivity: "eye-fucks."

"It might have been the only time in their lives when they looked with that intensity," Hockney said.

While the Vietnam War raged, Hockney looked - and lived - with intensity in California. Hockney's A Bigger Splash shows how he embraced the California lifestyle and the use of new artistic materials, in this case acrylic paints.                                                                                                                                                                                        
David Hockney, A Bigger Splash,1967

In this sensational painting, created in 1967, we see only the spray of water, revealing that a swimmer, perhaps Hockney himself, has plunged below the cool, glassy blue surface of the pool.

The culmination of Hockney’s California experience during the 1960’s was painted in 1972. The tremendously moving Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) was actually created near Saint-Tropez in the south of France. But the whole “feel” of the picture is California, a tribute in part to the success of Hockney’s work in spreading the appeal of the California lifestyle to Europe.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) 
David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1967

The clothed figure is Peter Schlesinger, who for five years had been Hockney’s partner. Their break-up, devastating to Hockney, was recorded in a 1971 painting devoid of any human references except for Schlesinger’s sandals, left by the pool side.

A year later, in Portrait of an Artist, Hockney placed Peter Schlesinger back in the picture. Previously he had painted Schlesinger in the nude, in swimming pool scenes. Here, he is a fully-dressed, melancholy figure. Hamlet in a summer sport coat.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Detail of Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1967

Schlesinger is forever separated from the swimmer doing the breaststroke in the cool aqua water. But it is not his clothing that keep Schlesinger transfixed to the tiled deck of the pool. Rather an emotional barrier, unseen but very palpable, stands between him and the sensually inviting life that he had enjoyed in Hockney's company so many times before.

Portrait of an Artist is really several paintings, flawlessly combined by Hockney into a work of almost cosmic intensity. There are three separate planes of existence: the swimmer in the pool, the almost statue-like Schlesinger and, off in the background, a glorious expanse of verdant, hilly terrain that looks like heaven brought to earth.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Detail of Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1967

This sublime landscape exerts a living presence, as well as foreshadowing the large-format landscapes of Hockney’s recent years. These, as we will see, are composite works also, seamlessly integrated to create a greater, grander whole.

Following the break-up with Schlesinger, Hockney visited Japan, searching for inspiration. But Hockney was disappointed. Japan was heavily industrialized by this point. He was also  struggling with the constraints of naturalism in painting, the very genre which he had so brilliantly articulated in 1960's California.

Hockney's greatest work from his Japanese trip - and it is one of his most famous - was painted after he returned. Hockney did not work from notes or sketches but rather used a souvenir postcard and a book on flower arrangement as his references for Mt. Fuji and Flowers, the introductory work to this review. 

Amazingly, Hockney painted Mt. Fuji and Flowers with acrylics, rather than oil paints. Considering the delicacy of brushstroke and the subtle, ethereal feel to this work, a treasure of the Metropolitan's collection, one would be forgiven for assuming the opposite.

Looking at Mt. Fuji and Flowers produces an elegiac feeling. Was Hockney bidding farewell to the sunlit skies and shimmering blue water of his 1960's California pictures? It is had to escape the feeling that this was so.

Following Mt. Fuji and Flowers, Hockney embarked on an ambitious, almost obsessed exploration of every conceivable form of painting, photography and related technology, including the iPad, which Hockney uses as a sketchbook. This search, which continues to the present day, was less about finding a signature style than to reach beyond the existing boundaries of the visual arts, while remaining rooted in the world.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017)
 Detail of David Hockney’s Pearblossom Hwy, 11th-18th April 1986

The Met exhibition has notable examples of Hockney's explorations, notably the magnificent photo collage, Pearblossom Hwy, 11th-18th April 1986, #1, and a fabulous selection of portrait sketches, including Celia in a Black Dress with White Flowers (1972).

David Hockney, Celia in a Black Dress with White Flowers (1972)

Pearblossom Hwy. is without a doubt one of the most innovative landscapes of recent times. The crayon portrait of Hockney's friend Celia Birtwell was later used as the exhibit illustration for a display of Hockney's drawings and prints at the Tate Gallery. It can hold its own with the sketches of Ingres. Hockney is truly a living master of art. 

Hockney also has a great sense of humor. In his interviews with Martin Gayford, Hockney mentioned that one of his favorite films is Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the partly animated movie released in 1988. 

David Hockney, Large Interior, Los Angeles (1988)

The same year, Hockney painted a "cartoonscape" of his own. Large Interior, Los Angeles, presents an ensemble cast of anthropomorphic furniture inhabiting an M.C. Escher-like family room. Each chair or sofa has taken on the personality of whoever had been sitting there. It is a very amusing work, but the really amazing thing about it is how "real" it seems. Once you suspend judgement - as you do when you are watching a talking rabbit in a film noir setting - this is a totally believable work of art.    

From this diverse repertoire, Hockney moved on to his present oeuvre, large format landscapes. These are painted directly from nature, but on several panels simultaneously. Hockney uses digital photos to keep track of his work, as he goes along. There is a parallel here with his cogently argued claims that Vermeer and other great masters from the seventeenth century used a camera obscura or some other lens apparatus to aid their work. 

If that is so, then Hockney is in good company. But Vermeer's artistry and Hockney's is primarily the product of the good hand, eye and heart that the Chinese sages extolled so long ago.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) 
David Hockney’s A Closer Winter Tunnel, February-March, 2006

Hand, eye and heart are clearly in evidence in the depiction of one of Hockney's favorite Yorkshire scenes, a tree-line track he calls the "Tunnel." I was struck by his generosity of spirit. as well as his skill. Looking at the way he presents his beloved landscape, from the spot where he stood to paint it, we are enabled to see and feel for ourselves what Hockney's sees and feels.

That is no small distinction. Hockney's hand, eye and heart bids us to appreciate this landscape with our eye and our heart. And then, so moved, we are motivated to create something beautiful or meaningful with our hands.

What a gift to the world, David Hockney has made of his life work and his life story! And there are more chapters yet to come! Of that, I am sure.                                                                                                                             
Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved 
Photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Anne Lloyd

Introductory Image:                                                                                                          David Hockney (British, 1937­ – ) Mount Fuji and Flowers, 1972. Acrylic on canvas: 60 × 48 in. (152.4 × 121.9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Mrs. Arthur Hays Sulzberger Gift, 1972. 1972.128                                        

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) David Hockney at the Metropolitan Museum, Nov. 20, 2017. Digital photo, 2017.    

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Photo of David Hockney's Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style, 1961. Oil on canvas: 91 9/16 × 32 11/16 × 1 1/2 in. (232.5 × 83 × 3.8 cm) Tate, Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund, 1996 

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Photo of David Hockney's Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians, 1965. Acrylic on canvas: 66 15/16 in. × 8 ft. 3 1/2 in. (170 × 252.8 cm) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Photo of David Hockney's Self Portrait 30th Sept.1983 (Detail), 1983. Charcoal on paper: 30 3/16 × 22 3/8 in. (76.6 × 56.9 cm) National Portrait Gallery, London Given by David Hockney, 1999

David Hockney (British, 1937­ – ) A Bigger Splash, 1967. Acrylic on canvas: 95 1/2 × 96 × 1 3/16 in. (242.5 × 243.9 × 3 cm) Tate, purchased 1981 © David Hockney, Photo Credit: ©Tate, London 2017

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Photo of David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972. Acrylic on canvas: 84 1/4 in. × 9 ft. 1/4 in. (214 × 275 cm) The Lewis Collection © David Hockney, Photo Credit: Art Gallery of New South Wales / Jenni Carter

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Photo of David Hockney's Pearblossom Hwy.,11-18th April 1986, #1 (Detail), 1986. Chromogenic print: 50 3/8 × 67 5/8 in. (128 × 171.8 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Gift of David Hockney, 97.XM.44

David Hockney (British, 1937­ – ) Celia in a Black Dress with White Flowers, 1972. Crayon on paper: 16 15/16 × 14 in. (43 × 35.5 cm) Collection of Victor Constantiner, New York. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

David Hockney (British, 1937­ – ) Large Interior, Los Angeles1988. Oil, ink on cut-and-pasted paper, on canvas: 72 1/4 in. × 10 ft. 1/4 in. (183.5 × 305.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Natasha Gelman Gift, in honor of
William S. Lieberman, 1989 (1989.279) © David Hockney  

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2017) Photo of David Hockney's A Closer Winter Tunnel, February-March, 2006. Oil on canvas. Six canvases: 37 1/2 in. × 50 in. × 1 9/16 in. (95.3 × 127 × 4 cm) each. Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney Purchased with funds provided by Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth, the Florence and William Crosby Bequest