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