Artwork Title: Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy

Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, 1968

David Hockney

...a double portrait of renowned novelist Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy, painted in 1968, shown in the UK for the first time in over two decades. Isherwood and Bachardy were one of Hollywood’s first openly gay couples and regularly opened up their home to entertain artists, actors and writers. This work was the first of Hockney’s celebrated double portraits, which he painted in the late 1960s and 1970s. [] Hockney’s growing interest in naturalism culminated in a series of life-sized double portraits of close friends and acquaintances in California, including Christopher Isherwood, a novelist, and his partner, Don Bachardy. More than mere portraits, Hockney has said these works are an attempt to “paint the relationship of two people”. Isherwood looks sternly at Bachardy, who stares straight ahead, at the painter perhaps. Between them, Hockney has mischievously placed a banana and a cob of corn. [] Painted in 1968, the Isherwood-Bachardy double portrait is the first of this form Hockney completed, and shows the couple seated in the Santa Monica, California, home they were to share for decades. While the painting's composition would become a seminal perspective for Hockney—a triangulation among the two subjects and the viewer, with one figure facing front while the other is presented in stark profile—the portrait's subjects represent a new dimension to the unapologetic homosensuality that pervades Hockney's work: the couple depicted here were just as unapologetic in the honesty and openness of their gay relationship, a daring feat in conservative mid-century America. The pair met in 1952 in Malibu (on a beach that could be seen from the living room of the couple's home) when Isherwood was 48 years old and Bachardy just 18. But despite the 30-year age difference, theirs was a true partnership—professional, emotional, and sexual—that endured until Isherwood's death from cancer in 1986. Hockney's 1968 portrait presents the pair at a volatile time in Western society's slow progression toward same-sex equality, sandwiched between the decriminalization of homosexual acts in England and Wales in 1967 and the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City's Greenwich Village, which is largely considered to be the beginning of the gay-rights movement in the United States. Isherwood and Bachardy were also moving through a period of personal turmoil and change; the pressure of each artist's work and career, their wandering eyes for other sexual partners while apart, and the hostility faced by gay couples in mid-century America weighed heavily on both men, who came perilously close to ending their relationship around the time of Hockney's painting. []
Uploaded on Apr 4, 2018 by Suzan Hamer

Arthur is a
Digital Museum