display | more...

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney
acrylic on canvas, 96 in. x 96 in.
http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hockney/splash/hockney.splash.jpg


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------##-------------
-----------------------------------------------------#####--######-----------
----------------------------------------------------#######--####------------
------------------------------------------------------###-----##-------------
-------------------------------------------------------#------##-------------
-------------------------------------------------------#------##-------------
-------------------------------------------------------#------##-------------
-----------------------------------00000000000000000---#------##-------------
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000--##-------------
**********#**************###################################--##-------------
0000000000#000****0******###################################--##-------------
0000000000#00000000000000###################################--##-------------
0000000000#00000000000000###################################--##-------------
0000000000#00000xxx000000###################################--##-------------
0000000000#00000xxx000000###################################--##-------------
#################x########**************************########--##-------------
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX/X\XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
#####################################//####/###/#############################
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@==@@==/////=/=//=/////////=//////////==//////==@@@@@@@@@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@===///////////=//////////////////==///////=/@=@@@@@=@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@==/=////////=/////////////////==////////==/==@@=@==@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=//=/@///////////-//-/////////=////////======@@=@@@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=///=//@//===/////-/---/////////////////=====@==@@@@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=//=-//////==///-/-----//////==////////=========@@=@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@-=/////@//////-----//////////////////==/=@==@==@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@===//=/////////////-//////////////////////==@@@==@@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@==/==////////////////%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%@@@=@@@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=/=/////=////////////#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%@@@@@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=/==///////////////////#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%@@@@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=//////=////////=//////#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=/////=///////==////=//#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=/////==/////==//======#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@=/////==//=============/=#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@====/======================/#%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

The British painter David Hockney, together with his contemporary Richard Hamilton, is generally credited with starting the pop art movement of the 1950s and 1960s which depicted popular culture, materialism and consumerism and often imitated the visual qualities of the day's popular magazines. While he rejected the title of "Pop artist," perhaps because it often conjures images of Andy Warhol's and Roy Lichtenstein's very different artworks, his choice of popular and materialistic subjects for his paintings clearly qualifies him.

A Bigger Splash (an earlier, less-well-known work was simply entitles Splash) is probably his best-known work. Painted during his two-year stay in wealthy Los Angeles, it is only one example of his interest in the southern California's private swimming pools and the people who owned them. However, many of those paintings lack the clean, stark simplicity of this one, setting it very much apart from them.

It is one of his largest works, eight feet (nearly two and a half meters) square. It depicts the back of an orange, single-story, flat-roofed house with two tall palm trees behind it and an empty director's chair in front. The shadow of the chair and perfectly clear blue sky suggests a mid-afternoon setting. The bottom half of the painting contains exactly three things: the blue water of a swimming pool, a low yellow diving board jutting out from the lower corner, and a white splash of water just in front of the board. A slight thickening of the white line of the roof directly above the splash suggests emphasis, like emboldening the text in a book. The viewer is placed just to the left of the diving board at the pool's edge.

Much of the acrylic paint was applied using paint rollers and masking tape. It is a textbook example of the use of lines in art to both guide the eye and suggest contrast: the vertical and horizontal lines of the house and palm trees sit above the diagonal lines of the diving board and the erratic lines of the splash, while the board itself leads the eye towards the empty director's chair and the criss-cross lines of its legs. Quoth the artist:

"...The splash itself is painted with small brushes and little lines; it took me about two weeks to paint the splash. I loved the idea, first of all, of painting like Leonardo, all his studies of water, swirling things. And I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds; it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds."

Color is deliberately chosen for effect as well: The top half is colored in oranges, browns and shades of grey, with a faded blue sky and tree leaves so dark they're nearly black, while the bottom half's bright blue water, intense yellow board and sudden white splash draw the eye far better than the subdued tones in the top.

The lack of human figures anywhere in the painting, in or out of the water, forces the viewer to concentrate on the lines and what they suggest. The eye is naturally led first to the splash, then to the diving board, and gradually follows the lines of the board to the empty chair on the other side of the pool. One may observe that the diving board is very low, the diver is nowhere near the water's surface, and the splash is vertical and very close to it -- all implying a short but high jump into the water, rather than a calculated dive. One imagines the home's sole sitting there, looking at the pool and board, until he or she stands up and hurries around, jumping once on the board and landing in the water wearing... a bathing suit? a business suit? or maybe just a birthday suit? The overall tone is one of fun, playfulness, spontaneity and just a hint of "you just missed seeing me" eroticism.

The two halves (which aren't exactly halves, but very close) are divided neatly by the deep blue edge of the pool, topped with a white line -- actually the color of the unpainted canvas, the only unpainted part of this work. It suggests a division of before and after -- land and sea -- boredom and excitement.

A Bigger Splash is also the title of a popular 1974 motion picture about Hockney and his American lover, Peter Schlesinger, whom he met in Los Angeles in 1966, returned to England with in 1968 and broke up with in 1970. It attests to the popularity of Hockney as a celebrity, not just an artist, as well as the painting and subjects which made him most famous.

Sources:

  • Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists by Edward Lucie-Smith, via http://www.artchive.com/artchive/H/hockney.html
  • WebMuseum articles by Nicolas Pioch at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hockney/ and http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hockney/splash/

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.