After being on your feet and staring up at the walls and ceilings all day, museums visits can be very draining by the end; however, Dulwich Picture Gallery is the perfect size for an afternoon visit.
With everything from Flemish paintings to Italian and Spanish scenes and British portraits, the gallery gives a taste of everything you would expect in an art museum. The collections in each room transport visitors to other places and times.
The small size and simple set up of the gallery makes the real focus the art. The skylighting overhead illuminates the room well, without distracting from the work by being too ornate. The selection of close-up views in the Italian and Spanish room make the subjects seem more intimate, as if visitors are right there with them. Meanwhile, the detail in pieces such as “Samson and Delilah” are awe-inspiring and spark the imagination.
The permanent collection holds the traditional portraits of great ladies and men with blank faces or scenes from the bible and classical literature. The gallery also holds a temporary exhibit. The current display, Hockney, Printmaker: 60 years of printmaking, will be hosted until 11 May 2014.
Hockney’s prints drew me in the most not only because of the complete contrast from the permanent collections that I see in every museum, but because of how very real the artwork made the artist to me.
Hockney makes his work very personal. The first piece in the exhibition is “Myself and My Heroes” (1961), in which Hockney notes next to the portraits of Mahatma Ghandi and Walt Whitman why he relates to them. Ghandi is vegetarian and promotes love while Whitman wrote “for the dear love of comrades.” While Hockney had words for why his heroes were important to him, for himself he simply said, “I am twenty-three years-old and I wear glasses” because he could not think of anything interesting to say about himself. Hockney seems like a very down-to-earth person dealing with all of the thoughts that everyone has.
Walking through the exhibit takes viewers through the progression and different styles of Hockney’s work. He created prints both by etching and lithography, and used just black and white or bright vibrant colors. Many of the pieces serve as a commentary on his life.
One of my favorites in particular is the diploma piece in which Hockney took a jab at the Royal College of Art when he was informed he would not be allowed to graduate. Another print shows the creativity of thought of Hockney. This piece, “Queen” (1961), has a plaque next to it that says at his cublicle in the college, other students stuck up girl pin-ups, but he put up photographs of Cliff Richard because he wanted to be different. He thought “here’s something just as sexy.”
It’s these details and the passion clearly evident in Hockney’s work that really make the artwork come alive. In every print he makes, I can understand why the subject was important to him and what struggles he faced. It is this purpose of expressing himself as a person and connecting to other people that the entire Dulwich Picture Gallery serves well throughout its collection.
‘Hockney, Printmaker’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery runs from 5 February – 11 May 2014. For more information on Dulwich Picture Gallery, please visit www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.