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David Hockney - The Old Master of Modern Art

Presented by Douglas Skeggs

9th May 2023

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Douglas Skeggs, the internationally renowned art historian, took us on a fascinating and hugely enjoyable trip through David Hockney’s seven decades of art. Using a series of excellent slides Douglas showed us many images of Hockney’s work highlighting the influence of, and references to, classic Old Masters.

We saw the vivid and strikingly simple appearance of his 1960’s Californian paintings.  Hockney was an early adopter of the newly developed acrylic paints producing crisp and sun-drenched, modern images. But Douglas compared these with Renaissance Old Masters, with their serenity and clear bright colours and the comparisons were remarkable. The Book of Kells was referenced in Hockney’s abstracted hair patterning in the portrait of Mrs Clark and we were encouraged to study closely the background details in many of Hockney’s works, such as reflections in mirrors or the title of a book on a shelf. These details hint at the influence on Hockney of very many artists and his role as self-confessed researcher.


Douglas went on to explain Hockney’s interest in and passion for photography and how it has been instrumental in much of his work. Both in helping him paint movement and sound, such as in A Bigger Splash, where he painstakingly recreated the photographed explosion of water. He combines photography and painting to achieve a personal viewpoint bringing his pictures to life.

In his photographic montages, Hockney uses the camera to depict the three-dimensional world in two-dimensional art forms, producing an effect that is very close to the way we actually experience the world. Hockney plays with perspective in the creation of these collages, helping to put the viewer inside of the picture itself.


Douglas then showed us the stage set designs Hockney created for Glyndebourne Opera, using only lights to change the set and reflect the moods of the music. And the enormous nature inspired Yorkshire treescape where Hockney combined traditional painting en plein air, with the use of digital photography. 


Douglas Skeggs was the most brilliant guide to this innovative and talented artist. This report only covers a fraction of the images displayed and it was astonishing to see the many different facets of David Hockney’s creativity and the ways in which he has depicted the world around us over the decades.


We are so lucky in Alton to have access through The Art Society to many very high-quality lecturers. The talks are always fascinating and there is a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere at these evenings. For more information on what The Art Society Alton has planned please go to   We always welcome visitors so please do come along.

Kate Faulkner

A member of The Arts Society
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