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Superficially this work might appear abstract. In fact it is the third of Hockney’s three ‘love paintings’, exploring what was then the taboo subject of homosexual love through coded signs and abbreviations. The fleshy pink, phallic shape is surrounded by fragmented sexual messages, which Hockney copied from graffiti on a toilet wall at Earl’s Court tube station.

The painting also includes the closing lines of a poem by Walt Whitman published in 1860, called When I Heard at the Close of the Day. Whitman’s evocation of sublime love forms a poignant contrast to the covert expressions of lust scattered across the picture.

July 2008