David Hockney’s Fascinating Portrait Subjects Relive the Experience of Sitting for a Legend

Over the course of three years, the iconic artist painted 82 people—meet a few

From 2013 to 2016, iconic L.A. artist David Hockney painted portraits of 82 people in his orbit. They all sat for roughly 20 hours over the course of two or three days in the same yellow chair in front of a blue backdrop. Some are friends he’s known for decades; others are friends of friends or children or friends; one guy has been washing Hockney’s cars since the ’80s. Oh, and during the same period, he also made one painting of some fruit arranged on a wooden bench.

Appropriately titled David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life, the exhibit opens to the public at LACMA on Sunday (curator Stephanie Barron is among the portrait subjects). Many of the people immortalized in the series showed up for a preview and reception at the museum on Wednesday night, as did Hockney himself; several subjects were in the clothes they wore for their respective sittings, which made them somewhat easier to pick out of a crowd. We spoke to several about their relationships with Hockney and the experience of sitting for a legend.


Dominique Deroche

Longtime director of the press office of Yves Saint Laurent

4th, 5th, 6th February 2016

Dominique Deroche

Andrea Alonso

“I know David because I worked for over 40 years for Yves Saint Laurent, and Mr. Saint Laurent had a great admiration for David Hockney, and Mr. Hockney the same. So we happened to meet several times, we even traveled together in Sicily. We become not friends—but a lot of friends together. It was incredible because I’m not shy, but when I started to do my pose for him, I was petrified, because I did not know what to do with my face, I did not know what to think, and he was looking at me all the time. And I’d say, oh my god, my nose, my hair—but the second day was over, and it was fun. David would choose the position of the feet and the hands, and I have to keep exactly the same thing days after days. I’m like, aye, I like to move—I’m French!”


Joan Agajanian Quinn

Longtime friend of Hockney’s and Los Angeles-based writer, photographer, and collector

16th, 17th, 18th October 2013

Joan Agajanian Quinn

Andrea Alonso

“I actually know David from the ’70s, one of my first trips to London. We were in Harrods food hall and there he was walking through the food halls, with his hair bleached, and I was like following behind him going, my gosh, that’s David Hockney. …It was not a strange experience [to sit for him] but it was an experience I had longed for for years because he’s very particular about who he draws, and he likes to draw or paint people who he knows really well. I felt like I finally made it after 40 years. But he’s so great. We love him so much. He’s so honest and real.”


Perry and August Barringer

Relations of artist Ian Falconer, a friend of Hockney’s

16th, 17th June 2014

Perry and August Barringer

Andrea Alonso

August: “Well, our mom’s brother is Ian Falconer…he’s a very good friend of David’s. They’ve known each other since the ’80s. We were coming out here to look at colleges—we’re from Connecticut—and our mom asked if we would stop by the studio, and David offered to paint us. So we so graciously accepted. It’s weird knowing this is going to exist for a long, long time. It was a long time ago, and a lot has changed since then…”

Perry: “It was the summer after the junior year of high school and now we’re in our junior year of college.”

August: “There’s a little bit of me that’s like, let’s do a new one now. But that’s a ridiculous thing to say. It just [represents] a different time of my life.”


Ivan Schreiber

Longtime acquaintance of Hockney’s

24th, 25th, 26th February 2014

Ivan Schreiber

Andrea Alonso

“We were counting, and it’s been over 35 years [that I’ve known David]. I was brought up with Ayn [Grinstein], a very nice friend, I’d been working with Ayn from the very beginning and doing other carwashes for her—I guess it was in ’82 or something? It’s been a long time. We visit David once and week and make sure the household has clean cars. David’s a real cool character. He’s actually not an artist, he’s a comedian. He makes jokes and stuff and he’s really fun to be around—friendly, generous—so I’m a lucky guy to have that responsibility. Sitting for David, this is interesting, you’re working together. You know whether he’s looking at your face or you hands—you know what he’s working on. You work together. One thing I learned from David too is to keep working hard. He gave me ideas for how I could keep working into my older age. You get help. You take the job seriously. That’s what he’s taught me. Anyway, he asked me to do this, and you don’t say no.”


Julie Green

Employee of Hockney’s

11th, 12th, 13th January 2015

Julie Green

Andrea Alonso

“I work for David, I’m head of reproductions and photo archivists for the last 15 years. First of all, [sitting for him] was an honor. Even though I work for him, to be on the other side of the painting, instead of the reproduction, I was the subject and it was much like the first time we met. His eyes basically took me in fully, like as if he could have rendered me from just observing me for the first time. It was a process over three days—at one point I had an out-of-body experience because it was spiritual. I was connecting with him. As he was painting, I saw what part he was painting. I also observed how intensely he was observing. The looking. The searching for form and volume. He fully takes you in. It’s not just looking at you as a person—he’s actually seeing you in a three-dimensional form.”


Caroline Cushing Graham

Longtime friend of Hockney’s

14th, 15th, 16th August 2015

Caroline Cushing Graham

Andrea Alonso

“I’ve known David since I was the West Coast editor of Vanity Fair. I used to go up to the studio a lot to see what David was doing. We used to publish new works by him. Then I went to the New Yorker and Tina Brown, the editor, was very fond of David’s work. We published a lot of new work at the New Yorker as well. I used to go up there and talk to David; I met his mother, I met [his sister] Margaret, I met his brothers. My mother was very fond of David; she came from Yorkshire like David comes from Yorkshire, so we then visited David in London quite often, at this studio there. We became very good friends. That was fun. A lot of us here today and a lot of us who’ve been painted by David have known him for a long time, so when we had the lunch today given by LACMA, it was sort of like we went back in time. There we all were, friends from the ’80s and ’90s, and I must say for LACMA, they brought us all together. Some of us have done really well, some of us haven’t done anything at all. But David was a kind of glue that always kept us together, even now. …It’s fascinating watching him work. I’ve seen him draw, I’ve seen him photograph and film, but I hadn’t really watched him paint in oils. It was the process—that he’s able to do this so fast.”


Brian Hastings

Friend of Hockney’s

18th, 19th, 20th July 2015

Brian Hastings

Andrea Alonso

“I know him through my partner, Douglas Baxter, who’s an art dealer in New York. I’ve known him for about 15 years. Three days, a lot of jokes, tea, biscuits, naps, smoking, breaks—it was fun. Oh and eating a lot of great lunches. It’s a big deal. I’ve been painted before, but this is probably the biggest ever.”


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