A History of Pictures || David Hockney & Martin Gayford

I’ve had this sitting on the shelf for several weeks and it’s been daring me to write about it. It’s become something of a cause célèbre since its publication both because Hockney’s views are authoritative and also because they are trenchant.

I have to say at the outset that this comes close to the book I’ve been hoping Hockney would produce. His views on art can be controversial, but he has a fundamental understanding of ways of seeing that are at once intuitive and convincing. His work with both still and moving photography adds a dimension rarely found and (naturally) completely missing before the middle of the Nineteenth Century. His ability to manipulate perspective while retaining a single viewpoint is one of the most original ideas there has been.

The book takes the form of a series of conversations between Hockney (the artist) and Martin Gayford (the critic). It is a little hard to tell whether these are transcriptions or a more formal, written exchange, though they do have a slightly literary quality at times. The scope of the book is “from the cave to the computer screen” and the progression is chronological, which makes for readability, although it does sometimes repress the idea of ways of expression echoing across millennia. You might counter that art regards itself as a steady development, perhaps from simple realism to more complex means of interpretation, however.

In a way, it doesn’t matter whether you like either of the protagonists. What is more important is that their views are clear and that there are plenty of illustrations – hardly anything is discussed in its absence – giving you the chance to explore your own thoughts and be informed or disagree as often as you wish.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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