Summary

This lithograph of Celia Birtwell, characterised by an elegance of line and subtlety of wash, is typical of the fine and tender portraits with which Hockney has celebrated his close friendship with the designer over the years. Celia first met Hockney in Los Angeles in 1964. She is most famously represented in Hockney's large double portrait Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-1 (Tate Gallery T01269). With her husband Ossie Clark, she was at the top of the fashion industry in London in the 'Swinging Sixties'. Clark designed clothes using Birtwell's textile designs, and sold them from the shop Quorum in Chelsea's King's Road.

Hockney's portraits of Celia acknowledge her sensuality without being overtly sexual. The artist felt that her portraits, particularly of this period, were very much a reflection of her personality rather than just of his feelings towards her: 'she's a very feminine woman, not a masculine woman, and a very sweet-natured, gentle person' (quoted in Marco Livingstone, 'Hockney's People: Notes to the Plates', David Hockney: Faces 1966-1984, exhibition catalogue, Laband Art Gallery, Los Angeles 1987, [n.p.]). Celia was a close friend of Hockney's companion Peter Schlesinger, and following the break-up of Hockney and Schlesinger in 1971, the artist's portraits of Celia take on an increased intimacy. Many of the 1973 drawings, including this one, were made in Paris, where Hockney then lived.

Further reading:
Marco Livingstone, David Hockney, revised edition, London 1987, pp.154-7, reproduced p.155
David Hockney: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles 1988
Marco Livingstone, David Hockney: Etchings and Lithographs, exhibition catalogue, Waddington Graphics, London 1988, reproduced pl.47 in colour

Terry Riggs
November 1997