Discussion by David C. Ward, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and Historian at the National Portrait Gallery.
Even though homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967, David Hockney presented his homosexuality directly, as integral to his art. While his paintings from the early 1960s did use coded references-to lovers and other gay references-the overriding avowal of male desire made these paintings a commentary on England’s proscriptions. And Hockney openly stated his intent to propagandize "for something that hadn’t been propagandized: homosexuality. I felt it should be done." “We Two Boys Together Clinging” is from Walt Whitman’s poem of that name, which celebrates two tramping boys roistering "North and South excursions making/Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching. . . . No law less than ourselves owning."
"Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" was on view at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, from October 30 through February 13, 2011.
For more on the exhibit, visit the exhibit website at: http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/hideseek .
David Hockney (born 1937) Oil on board, 1961 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London, England