Late one afternoon earlier in the year my office received a phone call out of the blue from a gentleman called Statten Roeg, asking if The Bowes Museum would be interested in receiving a loaned commissioned work by David Hockney featuring an extraordinary life sized nude photographic study of actor Theresa Russell. The work itself and artist captured my imagination and then the story behind the commission became even more irresistible!
Statten explained that his father Hollywood film director Nicolas Roeg commissioned his friend Hockney to create the montage for the movie “Insignificance”, which starred his then wife, Theresa Russell, as Marilyn Monroe. The film is a comedy, set in a New York hotel in the 1950s, and tells the story of four icons of the era as they discuss life, death, sex and the universe. It took Hockney four attempts with a Pentax camera to capture the images he wanted to create the stunning Nude, 17th June 1984. The collage shows both Theresa’s front and back as Hockney explores the use of lines and edges in his photography.
Nicolas Roeg, who’s best known for directing Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Witches, documented Hockney at work on the piece; photographing the artist as he prepared the scene, the assistants as they applied make up and Hockney taking the posed shots. These photographs give a unique and intimate never before seen ‘behind the scenes’ look at Hockney that make up an integral part of the exhibition, as one artist observes another.
Many years ago at the start of my career I was a trainee curator at the National Gallery in London and had the great pleasure and privilege to meet, and conduct a tour of the National Gallery with David Hockney. Curiously at this time he was obsessed with the idea of perspective and talked in detail about the use in art works of the notion of camera obscura. All of which The Bowes collection can relate to through works by Van Dyck, Sassetta and most relatable to this from of artistic licence, the Venetian scenes on the Canaletto paintings.
Article by: Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, extracted from Bowes Arts the magazine of The Friends of The Bowes Museum, Autumn 2019/ No 76
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