Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


NEW YORK’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is celebrating the career of David Hockney. The exhibit runs through February 25, 2018, and has a preview, complete with short video, at David Hockney at the Met. There’s also a catalog available at The Met Store. The Hockney exhibit is jointed organized by the Tate Museum, London; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and New York’s Met.

David Hockney, Bradford-born 1937, English painter, stage designer, photographer, draughtsman, and printmaker. Image from

I like to think of Hockney as a born-again Californian (just as I am). He’s lived here for more than 30 of his 80 years.

He’s also my favorite artist, living or otherwise. I enjoy the breadth of his work, from draughtsman-like realism to abstract, from theater set design to iPad art ink-jet printed on 12-ft. panels.

Here are four of his works, with subtext gleaned from the internet, including the artist’s own website. Though Hockney’s themes have ranged from homoeroticism to California swimming pools (to both combined), three of my favorites have automotive themes, sort of.

The first, though, does not. The Third Tea Painting, 1961, was part of Demonstrations of Versatility during Hockney’s time at London’s Royal College of Art. This painting of a Typhoo Tea tin is in illusionistic style, rather than his earlier phase of abstract art.

The Third Tea Painting,, 1961, oil on canvas. Image from describing last year’s Hockney exhibition at the Tate Musuem, London.

I mentioned Hockney’s homoerotic images and, sure enough, there’s a naked guy sort of emerging from the tea tin.

Another of his Demonstrations of Versatility was originally titled Swiss Landscape in a Scenic Style, later known as Flight to Italy. What’s more, this painting even earned an art review by the Geological Society of London, citing the work’s geological motif in “a distinctive Aquafresh stripe of geological stratigraphy….”

The society also shares a backstory: “Hockney had hoped to paint the Alps when journeying to Italy in 1961, but unfortunately was not able to see them because he was in the back of a windowless van the whole way…. When he arrived home, he decided to paint the picture anyway, to ‘make it up;’ he writes, ‘it’s just taken from a geography book, what the mountains are like.”

Flight to Italy, 1962, oil on canvas. Image from Geological Society of London blog.

I believe I recognize Hockey as the guy in a red shirt in the back of that speeding van.

After art school, Hockney rotated residence among California, London, Paris, and back to California in 1976. In 1978, he rented a house in Nichols Canyon in the Hollywood Hills.

Nichols Canyon, 1980, acrylics on canvas. Image from

The canyon’s southern extremity is at Hollywood Boulevard and weaves north below Mulholland Drive. Nichols Canyon depicts this in lush, colorful Fauvist style. The Hockney website notes that this early-twentieth-century genre gots its name from fauves, French for “wild beasts,” because of the seemingly uncontrolled nature of the brushstrokes.

Hockney enjoys exploring different genres and techniques. For example, his photo collages came about as a means of avoiding what he saw as distorted single images. In Deadwrite’s Dailies, Hockney was quoted as saying, “Photography is all right, if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops for a split second.” By contrast, each of his photo collages may be composed of more than 700 photographs.

Hockney prefers to describe such a work as a “drawing as opposed to a photographic piece. …this is because it is a layered composition representing many different viewpoints as opposed to a single, flat photograph.”

Pearblossom Highway, 11-18 April 1986, #2, 1986, collage of more than 700 photographs. Image from

Pearblossom Highway, California State Route 138, runs east and west in the high-desert Antelope Valley, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. Hockney took his 700+ photographs facing south on 165th Street at the Pearblossom Highway intersection.

The artwork shows both a driver’s and passenger’s points of view. As described at Hockney’s website, “The right-hand viewpoint represents what a driver would pay attention to while motoring along that stretch; the road signs, the writing on the road itself, the built-up destination in the distance—all the things that an attentive driver would consider.”

By contrast, on the left side of the piece is the passenger’s view, “a more leisurely observer noting the scenery, the trees, and the litter on the road…. The passenger does not have to attend to the road signs and the driver does not have time to admire the view.”

Note, though, even if he is a born-again Californian, I like to think that Hockney retains his English heritage by placing his imaginary driver in a right-hand-drive car. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: