The Portrait of Nick Wilder depicts Hockney’s friend and neighbour, Nick Wilder, and is one of the most interesting pieces from Hockney’s series of famous swimming pool paintings.
Painted in 1966, Portrait of Nick Wilder shows art dealer and gallery owner Nick Wilder serenely immersed in the waters of the communal pool located at the apartment building at 1145 Larrabee Street in Hollywood where the two painters lived until Hockney’s departure the following year.
This painting clearly shows Hockney’s explorations of the relationship between photography and painting. The deliberate omission of shadowing within the painting creates an image that feels flat, as if it were rendered from a single photograph.
The inclusion of a white border around the portrait further emphasized the painting’s connection to a photo. The lack of shadowing conveys the mood of Los Angeles; flat, geometric buildings bathed in a constant radiant sunlight. However, this mood is not a stifling or oppressive one, but bright, warm, and cheerful; absolutely Californian.
British Pop artist David Hockney is responsible for the creation of an enormous body of work that includes numerous paintings, photographs, and set designs. Born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, in 1937, Hockney demonstrated a virtuosity and determination to be an artist at a young age. After completing his studies with the Royal College of Art in London, he travelled, eventually landing in New York City.
Immediately struck by the lifestyle and freedom of America during the 1960s, Hockney began work on a series of etchings before returning to England to create some new prints before embarking on further journeys in Europe.
He eventually returned to the States; this time his destination was Los Angeles. It was here that he began working as a teacher at UCLA, and where he first met art student Peter Schlesinger, who was his model and companion for a significant amount of time. The landscape and society of Los Angeles would come to figure prominently in David Hockney’s work.