David Hockney unveils new drawings of his close friends in National Portrait Gallery show

David Hockney with his close friends and his new drawings in David Hockney: Drawing from Life © David Parry and National Portrait Gallery

New portraits of David Hockney's close friends have been unveiled for the first time at the National Portrait Gallery today, ahead of the legendary artist's major new exhibition there.

Featuring textile designer Celia Birtwell, his business manager and curator Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne – the artworks are part of David Hockney: Drawing from Life, opening this week.

Inspired by the exhibition, which explores Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950s to now by focusing on his depictions of himself and a small group of his closest sitters, Hockney invited his friends to sit for him once more for a new series of drawings – ten of which will be on display.

Drawn in Los Angeles and Normandy in 2019, the three-quarter length portraits are "fond evocations of time spent together" and represent the familiar faces and different expressions of his old friends, informed by all the sittings they have done previously. In the works, Hockney uses the walnut-brown coloured ink favoured by Rembrandt, achieving an uninterrupted continuous line.

Hockney has always communicated through drawing. "The sittings allow intimacy and closeness with the subject that cannot be achieved so readily with the bravura of the painted portrait," says the Gallery of his work.

"Fifty years after Celia Birtwell sat for Hockney for the first time in Paris, the artist invited his lifelong friend to Normandy on two occasions in August and November 2019, to sit for him again. The new works reflect his subject's vitality and engaging personality, characteristics the artist has always been attracted to."

Celia Birtwell said: "David recently moved to France, and wanted to show me his new house and studio. We went over to see him in September when he drew me several times. We were so impressed that we returned in November. In my opinion, he's the best draughtsman we have working now. It’s a great honour to be drawn by him."

Gregory Evans has been an intimate friend of Hockney's for fifty years, his consistent model, assistant, and now his curator and business manager. Sittings for the new portraits took place in Hockney's Los Angeles studio in June 2019.

Maurice Payne, master printer, and friend of Hockney's since the late 1960s has collaborated with him on several major etching projects, as well as being the subject of many of the artist's portraits. The new portraits were drawn in Los Angeles in December last year.

David Hockney: Drawing from Life opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 27 February and runs until 28 June 2020. Discover more: npg.org.uk.

David Hockney "Celia Birtwell, 29 and 30 Aug 2019" Ink on paper 30 1/4 x 22 5/8". All images © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney "Celia Birtwell, 29 and 30 Aug 2019" Ink on paper 30 1/4 x 22 5/8". All images © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney "Gregory Evans I, 27th June 2019" Ink on paper, 30 1/4 x 22 5/8"

David Hockney "Gregory Evans I, 27th June 2019" Ink on paper, 30 1/4 x 22 5/8"

David Hockney "Maurice Payne, 16th Dec 2019" Ink on paper, 30 1/4 x 22 5/8"

David Hockney "Maurice Payne, 16th Dec 2019" Ink on paper, 30 1/4 x 22 5/8"

David Hockney with new drawings in David Hockney: Drawing from Life © David Parry and National Portrait Gallery

David Hockney with new drawings in David Hockney: Drawing from Life © David Parry and National Portrait Gallery