A very rare screenprint from Hockney’s most favoured period showing his mastery of the treatment of water.
This print of a naked youth behind a translucent shower curtain is based upon the photograph published in the American magazine, Physique Pictorial. As Hockney discovered, when he visited Los Angeles, the models used by the magazine were local boys, some of them just released from prison, who were persuaded to pose nude in pools and showers for a few dollars. The disparity between the classical ideal presented in the magazine and the real life circumstances of the models perhaps accounts for the ironic title of Hockney's print.
This was made for the ICA Print Portfolio, a project initiated by the artist Richard Hamilton and which featured work by most of the leading artists of the day. The print is closely related to the subject matter of his paintings at the time.
While an undergraduate, Hockney subscribed to Physique Pictorial magazine, each issue of which would arrive from Los Angeles wrapped in plain paper. During his last term at the Royal College, Hockney’s practice of painting and his interest in physique photographs intersected.
"At the Royal College of Art in those days, there was a stipulation that in your diploma show you had to have at least three paintings done from life. I had a few quarrels with them over it because I said the models weren’t attractive enough; and they said it shouldn’t make any difference i.e.: it’s only a sphere, a cylinder and a cone. And I said, well, I think it does make a difference, you can’t get away from it.
Any great painter of the nude has always painted nudes that he liked; Renoir paints rather pretty plump girls, because he obviously thought they were really wonderful. He was sexually attracted to them and thought they were beautiful, so he painted them; and if some thin little girl came along he’d probably have thought, ‘lousy model’. Quite right. Michelangelo paints muscular marvellous young men; he thinks they’re wonderful. In short, you get inspired.
So I got a copy of one of those American physique magazines and copied the cover; and just to show them that even if the painting isn’t anatomically correct I could do an anatomically correct thing, I stuck on one of my early drawings of the skeleton and I called it in a cheeky moment Life Painting for a Diploma. It’s mocking their idea of being objective about a nude in front of you when really your feelings must be affected. I thought they were ignoring feeling, and they shouldn’t. It was a way of telling them something.”
When Hockney went to Los Angeles in 1964, he was particularly fascinated by the use of water for irrigation and recreation in the semi-arid environment. He delighted in experimenting with various methods of depicting drops and sprays of water, attracted by the 'idea of painting moving water in a very slow and careful manner. He painted swimming pools and lawn sprinklers, but was equally intrigued by showers:
“Americans take showers all the time ... For an artist the interest of showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three-hundred-year tradition of the bather as a subject in painting. Beverly Hills houses seemed full of showers of all shapes and sizes ... They all seemed to me to have elements of luxury ... very un-English that!”
(Nikos Stangos, David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976,p.99)
This work includes some of the artist's favourite themes: moving water, the curtain, domestic scenes and homoerotic imagery. The curtain motif, in particular its flatness and similarities to a painting, had interested Hockney for several years.