There cannot be many people who would not trip over themselves to be painted by David Hockney, but Da Vinci biographer Martin Kemp warns that being confronted with this image can be rather oppressive, given the artist’s chain smoking. And it turns out that this iconic work, should have been Mr and Mrs Clark and Blanche. Percy, Blanche’s brother, was rather too fat to pose like this.
While Hockney famously innovates with both technique and technology, his style never detracts from the subject. Hockney’s portraits have little to do with the craft of capturing likeness (not that he ever fails) and everything to do with encapsulating the personality and mood of the sitter at the moment. So it’s interesting that his self-portraits are made when he feels down. It’s a revealing truth that we only really make time for introspection when we’re at our most vulnerable. When things are going well, there seems to be no reason to question ourselves; but perhaps a self-portrait made at the highest peak would reveal much to help us through the troughs.