“I used to love going to Cartwright Hall as a kid, it was the only place in Bradford I could see real paintings.” – David Hockney
In his eightieth birthday year, a new permanent David Hockney gallery has opened in the artist’s hometown of Bradford. Cartwright Hall, located just outside the city centre in the picturesque setting of Lister Park, is something of a hidden gem within the former industrial powerhouse city. Hockney himself frequented the gallery as a youngster, thus it seems fitting that the site of his artistic inspiration finally houses a permanent collection of his works.
As it is famous for introducing a young Hockney to art, the gallery aims to provide something significant for art connoisseurs and novices alike. Aptly, the first thing that strikes you when you approach the entrance is the block colours on that walls that immediately come to the mind of anyone who knows Hockey’s work. For those who are not, the entrance to the gallery displays a simple timeline detailing the most important moments of Hockney’s life and career, such as his initial move to Los Angeles in 1964. In keeping with Cartwright Hall’s family friendly ethos, there are also activities for children to undertake during their visit.
The main gallery space is divided into key aspects of Hockney’s career – his time at Bradford College of Art, the Royal College of Art in London and the Young Contemporaries exhibition that announced the arrival of British Pop Art, as well as his famous swimming pool series that marks the start of a career-long fascination with the artistic representation of water. Overall, the gallery gives a comprehensive summary of Hockney’s work, his key influences – both personal and professional – and touches on his legacy as one of Britain’s foremost artists.
Whilst the opportunity to see some of Hockney’s best known works was a privilege, the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see some of the artist’s lesser-known pieces, and to find out more about where his inspiration comes from. As I mentioned previously, Hockney is often associated with the bright colours found in his swimming pool paintings of the 1960s or the more recent “Arrival of Spring”, on display in the nearby Salts Mill. It was a surprise to see darker works such as the black and white etchings of Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (1969-70), almost Angela Carter-esque in their twistedness, or more cubist The Blue Guitar, a Picasso-inspired interpretation of the Wallace Steven poem of the same name. For those who are not acquainted with different artistic methods such as etching and print, there are clear explanations of each method.
The influence of Bradford’s city motto, “Labor omnia vincit”, meaning “work conquers all” is clear to see across Hockney’s work. Over the years, he has been committed to trying a plethora of artistic techniques, from etching to watercolour to iPad drawings. What’s more, his work is not limited to visual art alone. He has also worked as a set designer for Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (1975) and for the Metropolitan Opera New York. This is not just a talented artist, but an extremely prolific one.
Despite not having lived in Bradford since 1958, Hockney’s upbringing there has obviously had a lasting influence, and this permanent gallery in his hometown allows for an opportunity to see that and grants Bradford a spectacular new artistic space. Alongside his most renowned artistic works, visitors have a chance to see a representation of his artists’ studio at his property in Bridlington, and examples from his personal photo collection, featuring family visits to local beauty spots, as well as his two endearing dachshunds, Stanley and Boogie.
For a city experiencing a cultural regeneration through events such as the Bradford Literature Festival and the rebranding of the National Science and Media Museum, Cartwright Hall is rightly cementing – through this permanent gallery – Hockney’s place as one of Bradford’s most famous children, alongside J. B. Priestley and the Brontë sisters. While it may not be as overwhelming or as thought-provoking as more in-depths exhibitions such as the recent display of his works at London’s Tate Britain (about which you can read culturised’s thoughts here), the David Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall has something for everyone, and is well worth a visit.