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Picturing a World

Hockney, Contre-jour

How many times have you looked out a museum window or left an exhibition and seen the world differently? For just a little while you feel like you have stepped into a painting or else that you are seeing it as an artist might. If you're David Hockney, you paint it!

Here's what he said about Contre-jour: "In the Pavillon de Flore, they had an exhibition of French drawings from the Metropolitan Museum … The first time I went, I saw this window with the blind pulled down and the formal garden beyond. I thought, oh, it's marvellous, marvellous! This is a picture in itself. And then I thought, it's a wonderful subject and it's very French; here I am in Paris, I've abandoned other pictures. Why don't I do it?" (Quoted in Spring Cannot Be Cancelled, p. 68.)
I find the resulting picture very elegant, one that can be investigated many ways even in a low-rez reproduction. For instance, if you try to focus on the purple-y three-sided frame around the quartered yellow square, it takes on an abstraction that is enlivened by the purple reflections in the flooring. Or if you look out at  the garden for its living green contrast to the interior, you realize that it, too, is flat and abstract, though on a plane that recedes—and it has the circle at the end of the path, the round trees or shrubs at back, and the curlicues in the foregrounded iron grille so that circularity gives motion to that one rectangular section. Again, the top and bottom of the window are very, very different; in fact, there are several zones. The daubs in the wall also work against the rectilinearity of the simple shapes. And so on and so on.
For writers, I think the comparison would have to be with poetry rather than fiction.
Then again, might Contre-jour in the French Style—Against the Day dans le style français inspire a story? Someone sees a Hockney on a wall. Someone sees a garden out a window from an empty room. A parade of elegant people walks by the window, observed by—whom? If x is true, what else must be? And what happens?!?
Via the Ludwig Múzeum, Budapest. See also the David Hockney Foundation.

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