David Hockney’s latest self-portrait, painted in Normandy, will be featured for the first time in a new exhibition of the artist’s work opening at the University of Cambridge.
Hockney’s Eye: The Art and Technology of Depiction explores the ways in which the famous British artist sees and represents art. It will open in March through the university’s Fitzwilliam Museum and Heong Gallery, Downing College.
As well as the self-portrait, which was painted last November, the exhibition features a number of other works never before seen in the UK.
Jane Munro, co-curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said the exhibition was the first “to give serious scholarly scrutiny to Hockney’s ideas as well as his art”.
Through paintings, drawings, iPad paintings and videos, optical devices and innovative 3D modelling, she said the exhibition “explores Hockney’s views on how art of the past was created , what he learned from it and how he transformed it”.
Hockney is known for criticizing both “Renaissance” photography and linear perspective for its lines that collapse to a single point, claiming that they do not correspond to our actual experience of the visual environment.
“The world is big,” he wrote. “The eye is connected to the mind…we see with memory…A photograph sees everything at once – with the click of a lens from a single vantage point – but we only see it not.”
It was visiting an exhibition by designer Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres at the National Gallery in 1999 that sparked Hockney’s interest in the use of optical tools by artists before the advent of photography in 1839. .
He said that optical instruments “don’t draw for you”, an idea that has proven controversial among art historians and featured in his 2001 book Secret Knowledge.
In the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Picture Galleries, Hockney’s drawings, paintings and digital artworks will be on display alongside historic works by artists including William Hogarth, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, John Constable and Andy Warhol .
The exhibition at Heong Gallery will showcase Hockney’s pioneering approaches to capturing space and visual reality from the 1960s to the present day. Beginning with a drawing made at the Royal College of Art in 1959, the exhibition will move on to his iconic American paintings from the 1960s and early 1970s, photo collages from the 1980s and an early digital drawing.
It will end with a digital mural showcasing the artist’s recent experiments with digital photography.
A selection of drawings he made using the camera lucida in 1999-2000, including Ian McKellen and Damien Hirst, will be exhibited at the Dutch Gallery. Hockney’s After Hobbema (Useful Knowledge) 2017, will hang alongside Meindert Hobbema’s The Avenue at Middelharnis, 1689 on loan from the National Gallery.
Martin Gayford, co-curator of Hockney’s Eye and author who has written numerous books with Hockney, said the exhibition was a “new look at the artist’s work, viewing it as an ongoing quest to find new ways to represent the world around us, images closer to the human experience; simultaneously, the exhibition considers the history of art from Hockney’s point of view, placing his images alongside impressionist landscapes and Georgian portraits .
Luke Syson, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said it was an “exhibition that we believe will feel at home in a place where the arts and sciences meet as equals”.