Yesterday I viewed two totally different exhibitions, David Hockney’s Arrival of Spring at the Royal Academy and Churchill and his Artistic Allies at Christie’s.
I am rather conflicted on Hockney.
On one hand I can only respect a man aged 83 who relocates in Normandy to paint the spring by a new format of an iPad.
Certainly the pictures had a luminosity and were uplifting. On the other I felt that they were ‘dashed off’.
“When is a picture finished?” is a question I pose to many artists I know. Ken Howard decides himself and moves onto the next one.
Pierre Bonnard famously once visited his own exhibition with his palette and paints as he wanted to touch up one painting on view.
I think David Hockney is in the Ken Howard school.
Martin Gayford who knows Hockney and knew Lucian Freud well said the former can complete a portrait in three days whilst the latter can take a year.
Further when Hockney painted a water lily, I could not but make the comparison with Claude Monet’s whose rich vegetation under the lily is such a compelling feature, an effect more difficult to achieve with an iPad.
Still I must not be a fuddy daddy, digital art is where the art market is going.
It was a short walk from the RA to Christie’s but a longer journey in art.
Here they put together an exhibition of some 33 lots featuring Winston Churchill’s paintings – and those of his tutor Sir John Lavery – and two other notables who influenced him, Walter Sickert and Sir William Nicholson.
I am a huge admirer of all three of these artists, especially Lavery and Sickert.
I was rewarded by two paintings by Sir John Lavery which I would have bought if I had the money.
The first was a portrait of Mrs Osler. The subject was draped rather lasciviously into a sofa and the picture is notable for the fusion of interior decor and subject, which earned Lavery many more commissions.
It’s painted in the South of France in the Olser villa at Cap d’Antibes, as was the Terrace at Cap D’ail.
Lavery and his wife Hazel loved the riviera and I have reproductions of two of his of swimming pools in villas there, one featuring Dolly Castlesosse, a beauty and socialite disporting her divine legs on a diving board.
It was always rumoured, possibly by her, that she had an affaire with Churchill and she is also noted for being the grand aunt of Cara Delavigne.
It was an exhibition I hugely enjoyed and it had more variety than the Hockney.
Churchill became an enthusiastic painter in 1912, influenced by Hazel Lavery, but his work suffers in comparison to the other three. I do not suppose that these three would have saved Britain from the Nazi yolk though.
Both exhibitions benefited from lockdown as there were so few people there.
Ironically it was more difficult to get a ticket for the tea room of The Friends of Academy than enter the exhibition with the Covid formalities.