Masterpiece Online 2020
David Hockney first met the American abstract expressionist painter Paul Jenkins (1923-2012) in London in the early 1960s at Arthur Tooth & Sons, where Jenkins exhibited from 1957 to 1966. This is one of two portraits that Hockney made of Jenkins with the other, larger portrait on canvas listed as 1963 and as painted in Jenkins’ studio.
As has been documented, Jenkins was a significant collector of Hockney’s work as early as 1961, acquiring a substantial number of works on canvas as well as several on paper soon after they were made. These included Figure in a Flat Style (1961), and A Man Thinking (1962/63) which Hockney inscribed to Jenkins. In 1970 Jenkins lent six of his Hockney paintings to the Whitechapel Gallery for Hockney’s retrospective exhibition.
Hockney first visited New York in 1961, and again in 1963. In 1963, Hockney was working on his series of etchings, A Rake’s Progress, two plates of which he made at Pratt Graphic Workshop in New York City, then located in the same building as Jenkins’ studio at 831 Broadway.
In this painting, Jenkins is immediately recognizable through his quintessential grey beard. The subject’s body is rendered in a black wash, echoing the fluidity of Jenkins’ distinct technique. Several of the images in A Rake’s Progress contain cloud-like formations which at times form a kind of thought or dream capsule. In this portrait, one such cloud shape is present above Jenkins’ head. This shape also appears in A Man Thinking (1962/63), a painting that Hockney inscribed to Jenkins.
Jenkins is shown in profile with outstretched arms that convey a sense of movement. This positioning of the head in profile with the body facing forwards relates to Hockney’s Egypt-inspired works from the early ‘60s.
The Estate of Paul Jenkins