David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) is a large acrylic-on-canvas pop art painting completed in May 1972. The painting measures 7 ft x 10 ft and features two figures – one swimming underwater and one clothed male figure looking down at the swimmer. It has become one of the most iconic images in the artist’s oeuvre and marks a need for closure on Hockney’s several years of working in a naturalistic style, which he has come to consider too reliant on a photo-realism.
The painting combines two of Hockney’s signature motifs- the male figure and swimming pool. It is said that the subject derives from two photographs: One was this swimmer in Hollywood swimming pool, captured by Hockney himself, while another was taken during his trip to St Tropez where Peter Schlesinger stood on a diving board gazing into Hockney’s lover Jonathon Winters who swam below them.^1
The movement of water is symbolized by curved white lines that surround and move towards the diving figure in contrast to calm, still waters elsewhere- demonstrating its birth as part allegory over younger lovers seeking freedom away from societal expectations.
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) has garnered critical acclaim over the years; it sold for $90.3 million at Christie’s auction in New York City in 2018^2 making it one of David Hockney’s most expensive artworks ever sold publicly.
1. Dodie Kazanjian “David Hockey Has Plenty Of Ideas”, Vogue, November 14th, 2018
2. Heather Russell “David Hunting set record selling ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)'”. CNBC[online], November16th ,2018