Monday 4: A Bigger Splash
David Hockney
1967

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This is one of the most famous paintings by the revered British artist, David Hockney. Here we see a quiet scene interrupted by someone having jumped off the diving board into the pool, resulting in a momentous splash. The splash creates a dynamic moment in an otherwise static scene. Hockney has realistically created the impact an object has when entering water at a high speed. At the point of entry, the paint is thickly applied with quick brushstrokes. As the splash expands the brushstrokes and application get thinner and the water spits rather than gushes.

 

Being at a diagonal angle, the diving board draws us further into the painting, leading us to a terrace where we see a modern home, palm trees and a single chair, perhaps once sat on by the now submerged diver. 

 

Hockney was born in 1937 in Bradford, Yorkshire, the fourth of five children. During his school years he discovered his love of art lessons and after attending the Bradford College of Art, he moved to London to attend the prestigious Royal College of Art, where he excelled. A year after graduating, in 1963, he went on his first visit to Los Angeles, USA. He would be so taken with L.A that he later moved there on a permanent basis, painting 'A Bigger Splash' during this period.

 

He uses bold and vibrant colours of blue, terracotta, yellow and green which has helped to capture the light and hue of a warm Californian day. He has enticed us into this painting and the world of Southern California and we can see why he has had, and continues to have, such a long lasting love affair with this part of the world, with the perfect blue sky and even more inviting crisp water of the swimming pool. Hockney himself has often said how much he enjoys swimming saying "it's the only exercise I get." 

 

Hockney uses the medium of acrylic paint. When in Britain, he had tried and disliked this medium but in California he found that American-manufactured acrylic paints proved to be much better than their British counterparts. A key characteristic of acrylic paint is that it dries much quicker than oil paint. This is because it is water-based, and the water evaporates as the paint dries leaving only the pigment behind. He has achieved some perspective and space but as a whole, the use of acrylic has created a much flatter surface. 

 

Throughout Hockney’s career he has been very innovative in both mediums and styles from acrylic to oil and portraits to photography to ipads. His creative influence has ranged from  movements such as cubism to the landscapes of Vincent Van Gogh. He is as much loved for his beautiful art as his unique and non-conformist personality, and has been described as the ‘best known and most critically acclaimed artist of his generation’.