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Doing it in Style – when Harry met Hockney

4 August 2023

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Readers will no doubt be aware that the National Portrait Gallery has announced a reopening of the exhibition ‘David Hockney: Drawing from Life’ this autumn – a show that was open for 20 days in 2020 before, as with so much, covid got in the way. The announcement came with a smattering of showbiz fairy dust that is becoming typical of the new NPG. Alongside it came the unveiling of a new portrait of cardigan-clad popstar and former One Direction band member Harry Styles, by none other than David Hockney, which will feature in the show.

Keen students of One Direction will know that this is not Sir David’s first interaction with the the group. Rumour has it that, while staying in a rehab centre, band member Liam Payne became very interested in drawing. A friend who happens to be Hockney’s great-nephew heard about this new hobby – and promptly arranged for Liam to meet Hockney himself. In preparation for their meeting, Liam drew a picture of Hockney that, according to certain sources, now hangs in the artist’s house.

Painting of Harry Styles wearing blue jeans and a stripy cardigan

Harry Styles, 31st May 2022 (2022), David Hockney. Photo: Jonathan Wilkinson; © David Hockney

But back to Harry. Harry straddles so many cultural arenas – musician, movie star, muse – that it is becoming increasingly hard to pin him down. This is not his first appearance in a museum, nor even his first in a cardie. In 2020, the V&A acquired a patchwork-knit JW Anderson cardigan worn by the superstar. Then, throughout 2022, Harry appeared on posters promoting the V&A’s exhibition ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear’. He reached this lofty position of posterboy not only due to his irresistible charm, but as the muse (that word again) of Gucci. Rakewell is unclear whether the cardigan begat the show, as it were. It is worth noting that the knitwear was so popular with his followers – self-styled Stylers – that JW Anderson released the knitting pattern and a tutorial on how to make your own, giving fans something to do during lockdown; talk about treating people with kindness.

As Hockney is renowned as an artist who keeps pushing both style and technology, it is unlikely that he will release details of how to paint your own Hockney. But disappointed members of the public will have to remember that, in the words of 1D: that’s what makes it beautiful.

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