David Hockney

Man in Shower in Beverly Hills

1964

Medium
Acrylic paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1673 x 1670 mm
frame: 1690 x 1680 x 35 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1980
Reference
T03074

Summary

Hockney formed his first impressions of Los Angeles from books and magazines he read before he visited the city. While still in London he painted an invented shower scene, Domestic Scene, Los Angeles, 1963 (private collection), which included an image of two men taken from the homoerotic American magazine Physique Pictorial. The magazine, to which Hockney frequently referred for images, published photographs of men in various contrived poses, shot in supposed domestic interiors.

When Hockney went to Los Angeles six months later, he was particularly fascinated by the use of water for irrigation and recreation in the semi-arid environment. He delighted in experimenting with various methods of depicting drops and sprays of water, attracted by the 'idea of painting moving water in a very slow and careful manner' (Stangos, p.99). He painted swimming pools and lawn sprinklers, but was equally intrigued by showers:

Americans take showers all the time ... For an artist the interest of showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three-hundred-year tradition of the bather as a subject in painting. Beverly Hills houses seemed full of showers of all shapes and sizes ... They all seemed to me to have elements of luxury ... very un-English that!
(Stangos, p.99)
This painting includes some of the artist's favourite themes: moving water, the curtain, domestic scenes and homoerotic imagery. The curtain motif ( in particular, its flatness and similarities to a painting ( had interested Hockney for several years. The source for the figure is a photograph taken by the Athletic Model Guild, which specialised in male nudes; the figure also has similarities to several images in Physique Pictorial. Hockney had intended from the beginning to add the foreground plant but, having difficulty with the feet, he bent the leaves to cover them. He began painting in acrylic during this first visit to Los Angeles, when colour rather than texture was his main concern.

Further reading:
Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, pp.16-17, 99, reproduced p.96 in colour
Marco Livingstone, David Hockney, revised edition, London 1987, pp.68, 74, reproduced p.68

Terry Riggs
November 1997

Display caption

This is one of a number of works showing men in showers painted around the time of Hockney's first visit to Los Angeles in 1963. After this visit athletic male bodies, often combined with water, became
a recurrent theme in his work. These paintings often derive from images in magazines. Hockney has said: 'For an artist the interest in showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and
in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There
is also a three hundred year old tradition of the bather as a subject in painting.'

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T03074 MAN IN SHOWER IN BEVERLY HILLS 1964

Inscribed ‘man in shower in Beverly Hills/David Hockney/'64’ on back of canvas
Acrylic on canvas, 65 15/16 × 65 3/4 (167.5 × 167)
Purchased from the Mayor Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Prov: Kasmin Ltd; Harry N. Abrams Family, New York (purchased from the Alan Gallery, 1964); Mayor Gallery, London, 1980
Exh: David Hockney, Alan Gallery, New York, September–October 1964 (8); David Hockney: Paintings, Prints and Drawings 1960–1970, Whitechapel Art Gallery, April–May 1970 (64.13, repr.in colour); David Hockney, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, May–June 1970 (25, repr.in colour); David Hockney: Slike, Crteži, Grafike 1960–1970, Muzej Savremene Umetnosti, Belgrade, September–October 1970 (22); David Hockney: Tableaux et Dessins, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, October–December 1974 (6, repr.)
Lit: Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, 1976, p.99, repr.in colour pl.97; Henry Geldzahler, ‘Hockney Abroad: A Slide Show’, Art in America, LXIX, February 1981, pp.129–30, repr.in colour p.131; Marco Livingstone, David Hockney, 1981, p.68, repr.

Known as ‘Man Taking Shower in Beverly Hills’ from the date of its first exhibition in 1964, although the title ‘Man in shower...’ in the artist's hand is clearly visible on the back.

The picture was begun in Los Angeles and finished at the University of lowa where Hockney had gone to teach in the summer of 1964. It is one of three paintings showing a young man in a blue, grey and black tiled shower with a large plant in the foreground. The others are ‘Boy about to take a Shower’ 1964 and ‘Man Taking Shower’ 1965 (repr.David Hockney by David Hockney, pls.105 and 107 respectively). In ‘Boy about to take a Shower’, the only one of the group not to depict water, the plant was added in 1969 (see Christie's sale of Contemporary Art, London, 28 June 1983, lot 467, p.67).

The fullest account of this picture is given in David Hockney by David Hockney, where the artist reveals a source for it and other shower pictures in American homo-erotic magazines such as Physique Pictorial. ‘The interior scenes in the magazine were obviously (like old movies) shot in made-up sets out of doors. Bathrooms had palm-tree shadows across the carpets, or the walls suddenly ended and a swimming pool was visible’ (op.cit., p.93). ‘Americans take showers all the time - I knew that from experience and physique magazines. For an artist the interest of showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three-hundred-year tradition of the bather as a subject in painting. Beverly Hills houses seemed full of showers of all shapes and sizes - with clear glass doors, with frosted glass doors, with transparent curtains, with semi-transparent curtains. They all seemed to me to have elements of luxury: pink fluffy carpets to step out on, close to the bedrooms (very un-English that!). The figure and tiles in “Man Taking Shower in Beverly Hills” are painted from a photograph taken by the Athletic Model Guild, a group of Los Angeles photographers who do studies of the male nude. The idea of painting moving water in a very slow and careful manner was (and still is) very appealing to me. I had great difficulty in painting the figure's feet and, although the plant in the foreground was a definite early part of the composition, I did take a rather easy way out by bending the leaves to cover his feet’ (ibid., p.99).

Henry Moyes has pointed out (letter to the Tate Gallery, 19 January 1983) that the pose of the figure in T03074 may be derived from three different photographs of nude men in separate issues of Physique Pictorial, in none of which is the figure's left arm visible. The relevant issues are vol.12, no.1, p.10, bottom left (photograph of laughing man under shower, his face blurred by water); vol.10, no.2, p.28, bottom (man naked except for boots, attending to motorcycle); vol.12, no.3, p.20 (naked man bending over basin while another washes his hair). In addition, the shower-head high on the wall spraying water from top right to bottom left in T03074 recalls another photograph on p.11 of Physique Pictorial vol.12, no.1 - a photograph which Hockney made direct use of in the silkscreen print ‘Cleanliness is Next to Godliness’ 1964.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984