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Big splash

Painting, 1967, 242.5×243.9 cm

Description of the artwork «Big splash»

Landscape Big Splash, created in 1967, perhaps the most famous work of David Hockney. He portrayed the sunlit swimming pool in Los Angeles, the pink modernist building behind him and the empty folding chair on the spacious patio. In the wide glass sliding doors on the facade are reflected the silhouettes of houses opposite, and two spindly palm trees and a neat curb of grass suggest carefully groomed gardens. The scene — which is unusual for Hockney’s paintings from that period — is deserted and almost motionless ... with the exception of a splash. The viewer can only guess who this mysterious bather, a moment ago, dived into the cool water. The artist himself said he did not know this.

Hockney first visited California in 1963, and he was immediately subdued by sunlight and a leisurely lifestyle - not at all the ones he was used to in London. He described the American state as his “promised land” and spent there a considerable part of the next forty years.

And although at first glance his paintings with pools illustrate scenes of relaxation and luxury, Hockney himself insisted that he had other intentions. First of all, he was interested in the play of light and transmission in colors of endless patterns on a moving surface of water. He considered water as an “interesting formal problem” because “it can be anything — it can be of any color, it is mobile, it has no definite visual description”. Therefore, the real “hero” of this picture was the moment of splash, frozen on the canvas.

The Big Splash was written between April and June 1967, when Hockney taught at the University of California at Berkeley. The composition is composed of several separate images. One is taken from a book on the construction of swimming pools (which is why the painter does not know who jumped into the water), and the other from one of the sketches of California buildings made by the artist. Despite the fact that Hockney drew inspiration from photographs, in his paintings he did not seek to reproduce objects with photographic accuracy. He considered photographs as a useful tool for memorizing information, but did not consider them sufficient. Only the personal vision of the author adds depth and resonance to the composition, forcing it to come to life.

It seems that the most obvious way to draw water soaring is to splash liquid paint on a canvas or imitate splashes with large brushes and energetic gestures. In the end, abstract expressionists seem toWillem de kuninga andJackson Pollock over the years they have been creating similar paintings, splashing and spraying paint on the canvas. But instead, Hockney used thin brushes, painstakingly reproducing the forms created by the rising cascade of water, various areas of transparency and traces of tiny drops. It took him two weeks to make everything look as intended.

Hockney later said that he had spent much more time drawing a surge than at home behind him — although this surge lasts two seconds, and the building is constantly in place. This contradiction fascinated him.

“Big Splash” is the largest and brightest picture from the “Splashes” series. The other two areSplash and Small Splash (both in private collections; the first was sold at Sotheby's for £ 2.6 million in 2006 and already 23 million 14 years later) - were completed in 1966. All of them have a view of the swimming pool against the backdrop of the modernist architecture of the 1960s. The dimensions of this version from the collection of the Tate Gallery are almost 2.5 by 2.5 meters. Standing in front of her, the viewer almost becomes part of the picture.

Another interesting fact. Typically, artists stretch the canvas on a wooden frame - a frame - securing it with nails or staples. However, Hockney just hung the canvas on the wall. He also took quick-drying acrylic paint, which was more suitable for the image of the sunlit clean contours of California's suburban landscapes, than slow-drying oil.

The artist began not with images on canvas, but with colored blocks. Achieving a flat surface of the sky, the building and the pool, he used a paint roller and applied paint in two or three layers to make it opaque. Only after that, on top of the multi-colored fragments, Hockney wrote details with a thin brush - trees, grass, a chair, a reflection in the window and, of course, a splash.

Around the image, he left a wide unpainted border (linen color, which we see along the edge of the picture - this is an unbleached canvas). This is reminiscent of a polaroid framing, perhaps hinting at the use of photographs as a basis for a picture. A thin strip of untouched canvas goes along the upper edge of the pool - it can be noticed upon a detailed examination of the picture.

The Big Splash was exhibited at the John Kasmin Gallery, where in 1968 it was acquired by renowned art patron Sheridan Dufferin, 5th Marquess Dufferin and Ava. Seven years before his death, the aristocrat sold the canvas to the Tate Gallery. The picture also gave the name of the semi-documentary film, which tells the story of the creation of another masterpiece by David Hockney - "Portrait of the artist (Pool with two figures)".

Author: Vlad Maslov
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape, Architecture

Style of art: Art Nouveau, Pop Art

Technique: Acrylic

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1967

Size: 242.5×243.9 cm

Artwork in selections: 34 selections