Hockney’s Personal Drawings at The Morgan

The drawings at the Morgan, David Hockney: Drawing from Life, on view through May 30, are a tribute to the friendships maintained and the artistic experimentations sustained over the artist’s 83-year lifetime.

Hockney self-portraits through the years.

The show was created by the National Portrait Gallery in London and centers on 100 portraits of five people who sat for Hockney across the decades – his mother and several close friends.

The exhibition is organized by person, so you can compare how each person looked from the beginning of Hockney’s studies, across the years, and most recently when they came to visit him in Normandy, where he lives now.

Most of the works are from the Hockney Foundation or from the artist’s own personal collection, which makes the show extra-special.

The exhibition begins with a series of self-portraits that Hockney did as a teen, and features his etching series about his first trip to America in the early 60s. Then it jumps to the many portraits he did of his mother in England.

Colored pencil portrait, Celia, Carennac, August 1971
Digital wall of Hockney 2010 iPad drawings
Charcoal drawing Maurice Payne, October 9, 2000

Each series shows off his masterful accomplishments in precise colored pencil, mixed-media collage, watercolor, crayon, arranged Polaroid mosaics, etchings, ink washes, tight pencil sketches, and the biggest leap of all – digital drawings from his iPad.

Walking past the portraits, self-portraits, sketchbooks, and digital drawings, it’s quite a tribute to an artist who never stopped looking, wanting to sit with his favorite people, and slowed down to adopt techniques by other masters that he admired.

Take a look at works by a pop-culture virtuoso. Here’s a brief introduction to the exhibition by the Morgan’s director:

Take a walk through the exhibition on the Morgan’s website here, and join a YouTube tour with the curator here.

And see our favorites in our Flickr album here.

Gilded Age Treasure Hunt at The Met

Once you navigate the twists and turns of one of the furthest reaches of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing (past the Versailles panorama and past the Rockefeller room), you’ll come to a treasure trove of Gilded Age interior design – Aesthetic Splendors: Highlights from the Gift of Barrie and Deedee Wigmore, on view through April 18.

What did rich people in the 1880s and 1890s want? The exhibition will show you.

1880s Herter Brothers cabinet, Britcher landscape, and reproduction wallpaper evoke the Wigmore’s home

You’ll find lush landscapes by second-generation Hudson River painters and first-generation romantic painters of the American West, elaborate furniture and decorative pieces embellished with tributes to Asian style, and bedazzled masterpieces from the Tiffany workshops.

Sanford Gifford’s 1879 An Indian Summer Day in Claverack Creek

The curators pay tribute to these avid Aesthetic Movement collectors by framing these promised gifts with reproduction period wallpaper and fixtures, and it’s hard to decide where to look first.

The approach to this marvelous exhibition gives modern gallery-goers an experience of what Gilded Age interior designers had in mind – cramming foyers and drawing rooms with lush paintings, flashy techno brass furniture, Japanese-style ceramics, art pottery, and fringed upholstered seats decorated with Arts & Crafts tiles that throwback to mythical times.

The mix of styles and techniques – some old and some new – reflect a time when consumption of luxury goods ran wild with the ascension of New York City as the trading and shipping capital of the world.  Many of the pieces reflect new machine-made technology mixed in with a bit of medieval nostalgia via the British Arts and Crafts movement.

Look closely at all these showstoppers in our Flickr album.

Detail of 1880 Modern Gothic cabinet by Kimbel and Cabus with tile by Minton & Co.

Although the exhibition is slightly hidden away, the landscapes appearing throughout the show provide windows to lush valleys of the Rockies (thank you, Mr. Bierstadt!), autumn colors of the Catskills, and spectacular, tranquil shorelines on Maine’s rocky coast.  All are either in their original fancy frames or reproductions from the era.

Alfred Thompson Bricher’s 1899 Low Tide, Hetherington’s Cove, Grand Manan in Maine

Most of the works are oil paintings, but (in case you didn’t know) New York was also the epicenter of the movement to make watercolor paintings the equal of any fine salon work.  The curators have included work by the masterful William Trost Williams, so you can enjoy a side-by-side comparison of the techniques he used to give those oil painters a run for their money. Every time we’ve visited this show, visitors simply stand transfixed, drinking in the saturated, tranquil views of the faraway.

The ceramics, cloisonné tabletops, andirons, and many large-scale pieces reflect the period’s mania for anything with a hint of Japanese or Chinese style – delicate birds flitting through bamboo and fierce dragons swirling in magical space. Designers for the upper classes were captivated by images from kimonos, scrolls, screens, and ceramics from the East and made sure that custom commissioned pieces were on trend.

Bradley & Hubbard’s 1895 phoenix andirons
Sapphire encircled by grapevines on 1910 gold and platinum Tiffany necklace

The mesmerizing beacon within the show is the spectacular array of Tiffany necklaces in the center – dramatic opals and sapphires, often encircled by intricate grapevines in gold or another nod to nature-by-design. The effect of these beauties side by side is magical, and you can imagine a Gilded Age beauty making an entrance with one of these dazzlers.

The Met just announced that its September 2022 Costume Institute exhibition would be displayed in the period rooms of the American Wing, so we’ll see if Mr. Bolton and his team deploy any period finery in the more-is-more 19th-century area.

Read more about pieces in this fantastic donation on the MetCollects blog and flip through close-ups of some the featured works.

When Advertising was Revolutionary

Abstraction was being invented, monarchies were falling, wars were raging, and modern 20th century artists decided to turn advertising on its head, too. Artists left studios in droves and began making posters, brochures, billboards, traveling agit-prop theater wagons, and new-fangled telecommunications towers.

1-11 Engineers Agitators Reconstructors at MoMA
Modernist Russian billboards and works from Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s 1923-1925 Advertising-Constructor agency

That’s just the first gallery of Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, on view at MoMA through April 10 – a show that investigates how artists change their focus to meet the moment of social, technical, commercial, and political change.

The focus is the period between WWI and WWII, when the avant-garde began mixing it up to bring about a whole new world for consumers, city planners, publishers, and the proletariat. Take a look at our favorite works in our Flickr album.

The first gallery provides a broad view of how other avant-garde abstractionists first inspired by Malevich’s Suprematism experimented now used pure, kinetic shapes to dance across children’s books, pavilions, costumes, and posters in the earliest days after the Russian Revolution.

El Lissitzky’s 1922 book About Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale of Two Squares in Six Constructions

The 300 works in the show are principally works on paper, collected by and donated to MoMA by Merrill Berman – a treasure trove that includes particularly rare and unique items that the curators use to tell quite a story.

A 1922 costume design by Popova, inspired by workers’ uniforms

One entire wall is dedicated to Ms. Popova, where you can stroll by paintings, covers for sheet music, and prints – all the ways she applied her genius. Another long wall displays dynamic work by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky, whose Advertising-Constructor agency mixed poetry and innovative, angled constructivist style to sell chocolate and other consumer products.

Mixed-media plays a major role in the exhibition, with several galleries showing how European artists embraced collage and photomontage both in their personal studio work and in graphic designs that shook up the look of mass market publications, industrial marketing, postcards, and political posters.

Dynamic photo montage 1928 postcards by Gustav Klutsis to promote the All-Union Spartaklada Sporting Event

Another section of the show provides an introduction to innovative Polish, Hungarian, and Dutch indie zines shared, collected, and treasured by cutting-edge writers and designers excited by possibilities of the early 20th century.

Creative European magazines published in the late Twenties

Angled, geometric, and loaded with innovative typography, these rare magazines share the space with paintings by Mondrian, sculpture by Moholy-Nagy, and other geometric shape-shifters.

1924 photo of Henryk Berlewi and his exhibition at a Warsaw Austro-Daimler showroom with works from his Mechano Facture series, inspired by industrial technology

Women are prominently showcased in every gallery of the exhibition, including the massive wall of Soviet posters by female designers whose images celebrate the contributions of women to the industrial workforce.

1931 poster by Natalia Pinus acknowledging female farmers and other collective workers

Visionary drawings, watercolors, and poster posters are around every corner – and most are never-before-seen surprises. Before WWII brought it all to an end, the curators show the modern innovations that these creatives had in mind – new architecture, advertising constructions, and modern furniture fairs.

Walter Dexel’s 1928 design combines an airshaft, ad kiosk, and telephone booth. Herbert Bayer’s design for an electrified ad tower for an electricity company, done when he was just a student at the Bauhaus. Willi Baumeister’s 1927 poster that directly declares interior designs of the past are over.

Elena Semenova’s 1926 design sketch for a Russian worker’s lounge looks like a precursor to WeWork.

1927 poster by Willi Baumeister promoting a modern furniture exhibition in Stuttgart
Vision for model communal space: Elena Semenova’s 1926 design watercolor for a Russian worker’s club lounge

Enjoy this special program with Ellen Lupton and curator Jodi Hauptman in a fascinating discussion about work by several revolutionary designers and how so many intermingled careers in graphic and fine arts during tumultuous times: