Early Works includes figurative works made by both artists at the start of their careers, including self-portraits produced when Hockney and Davie were both 16 years old. Self-portraits and photographs throughout the exhibition will show the development of each artist’s public persona at a time when contemporary art was becoming a central part of popular culture – artists appeared in films, were interviewed on television and featured in the new colour Sunday supplements. Both artists cultivated distinctive looks, exploring differing but connected notions of masculinity and identity. Both shrugged off labels, Davie refusing to be dubbed an ‘Abstract Expressionist’, and Hockney similarly eschewing the term ‘Pop artist’.
Themes of poetry, love and eroticism explored by both artists will be examined through paintings including Hockney’s celebrated We Two Boys Together Clinging(1961) and Davie’s Glory (1957). The visitor will see how both artists pushed and tested the painted surface, often incorporating coded symbolic text and abstracted figures to create new visual languages and passionate painterly expressions. The exhibition will also explore work from the 1960s when both artists combined interests in non-western culture with contemporary influences including American abstract painting and advertising.