Prints are usually seen as the poorer cousins to paintings, they are cheaper than originals but often lack their quality. David Hockney never really entertained this notion and made prints an important part of his portfolio. Dulwich Picture Gallery has assembled a collection of his etchings and lithographs to show both his range and his progression as an artist from 1954 to now.
The first half of the exhibition starts with his etchings and they are subtle affairs which will be a shock for those only familiar with his latest ipad paintings. The series titled ‘a rake’s progress’ is a clever satirical take on life in New York while his Cavafy drawings of homosexual couples may not be too impressive, but stand out for the political statement they made at the time.
The etchings often feel underwhelming but the exhibition steps up a gear in the second half with Hockney’s lithographs, which are much more engaging. His famous swimming pool works are represented but it’s the weather series that really grabbed us — whether it be a powerful lightning strike or the delicate ripples caused by raindrops on the water’s surface.
The final room contains his searingly bright ‘moving focus’ prints, a fitting end to this show as they are the closest in spirit to his most recent works.
This is quite the departure from his bold blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy and though it can sometimes get a bit bogged down, the works do a great job of charting Hockney’s development, and show us the sheer variety of his oeuvre. Visitors who come expecting works akin to his recent paintings may leave disappointed but this exhibition is great for those who are familiar with or interested in Hockney’s evolution as an artist.
David Hockney: Printmaker is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery, College Road, SE21 7AD until 11 May. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available.