Hockney Green. 2nd August

Noble Field GOBA mooring

Back when we were moored in St Ives.

A day off work and a day trip in to Cambridge.

Guided on the old railway line

We caught the B bus, one of the Guided buses that connects Huntingdon, St Ives and Cambridge. The Guided Busway is the longest in the world and follows the course of the former Cambridge and Huntingdon Railway, the bus driver doesn’t need to steer whilst on the guided track. However they do need to take over when the bus runs on normal roads! Heather had told us of the wild flowers bordering the track, but these are all now sadly gone.

The Fitzwilliam Museum

Whilst on the bus I booked us tickets to the Fitzwilliam Museum. This meant we could enter by the main door have our tickets zapped and head off to explore the museum, well the upper floor mainly as this is where the Hockney exhibition was to be found.

Hockney’s Eye , The art and technology of depiction, is a very interesting exhibition. It explores the many ways of seeing and depicting in art and how pictures have been created through his eyes.

Hockney has been known for his use of modern technology, using photographs, iphones and ipads. The exhibition draws together the naturalistic techniques used by the old masters, explains them and collects together artworks made using those techniques and pairs them up with works by Hockney where he has manipulated the rules or gone in the opposite direction from them.

Get out of the way! It doesn’t work from that side!!!

The drawing of perspective was explained with the use of the vanishing point. A piece of Perspex stood with lines drawn on it and a cross marked the spot of where to stand, showing how an artist draws. This needed a little explanation to Mick and others as nowhere on the instructions did it mention that you needed not only to be stood on the cross on the floor but also at the right height! This was not helped by two ladies stood in the way of the picture frame you need to line up with at the other end of the gallery!


A wooden box sits in front of Extreme Unction by Poussin. Through a spy hole in the box you can observe the scene seen in the painting. 3D wax figures take up positions around a bed, a strong light coming in from the left. The model in a box is used to help get the lighting right for the painting. At college, one of our first projects was to make a scene in a shoe box and to see how different angles and colours of light affected the mood within. High up on a wall opposite hangs a painting by one of my favourite artists, Caravaggio a master chiaroscuro (the effect of contrasted light and shade in a painting).

Amazing architectural detail

Use of a Camera Obscura is shown exceptionally well in the paintings of Canaletto. His perspective landscapes of Venice so intricate in detail and perspective, the box with mirrors a tool to assist in their creation.

Images reflected down from the roof

Outside the museum is a much larger camera obscura in a hut. The image reflected onto a table of the passing scenes along the road outside. If you had a piece of paper and a pencil these could so easily be traced for the foundation of a picture.

A collection of small drawings by Ingres of travellers amuse and astound with their detail. Hockney after enlarging one of these found evidence that it was possibly traced, marks on the paper suggested the use of a Camera Lucida. Here the apparatus allows the artist to see both subject and paper at the same time. With this points of reference can be marked on the paper, distances between eyes, the relationship to the mouth enabling an accurate dot to dot as it were. Hockney has used the technique himself producing a fantastic portrait of Sir Ian McKellen.

A group of drawings/paintings made using a Camera Lucida and free hand drawing portray a group of gallery staff from the National Gallery who sit and watch the public. They are uniform in both style and clothes, yet unique in the accuracy of their portraiture.

Green a coloured used a lot by Hockney as a base

Hockney would send ipad paintings of bowls of flowers to his friends on a daily basis. Flowers that would last and not wilt in a vase. We saw his filmed footage of landscapes around the Yorkshire Wolds, these used to be painted onto large sections of canvas which were displayed together in a similar way. None of his composite photographs though that show not only a person from one sitting but also everything around them.

Stubbs above, Hockney below

I overheard a young lady looking at a painting of Hockney’s from his college days when abstraction was all the rage. He wanted to go against the formal training he’d received at college depicting a romantic notion from a Blake poem The Tyger, the painting above by Stubbs depicting a similar romantic emotion in a different style. The young lady said ‘that’s rubbish I could do that in ten minutes!’ ‘It’s just all so insulting!’ Art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whether that be the artists eye or a young lady in a museum, she did not appreciate the strokes of Hockney’s brush and had tainted the whole exhibition as ‘insulting’

What a glum Mary and Christ

At least it provoked emotion from her. I hope that she and her companion had just arrived and that her attitude would be confronted elsewhere in the exhibition. Another lady looked down glumly at the paintings, not impressed either. But then again she does have a very chubby middle aged man for a baby!

A lovely looking sandwich

We broke up our visit with lunch in the cafe, Mick having an egg sandwich with some tasty chutney whilst I had a slightly drab gluten free Mediterranean vegetable wrap without chutney which would have pepped it up a bit.

We maybe should have walked around the other galleries, taken a look at the objects on the lower floors, but the Hockney exhibition was what had brought us here and was well worth the trip out.

On our way back through town we were astounded that there was no queue at Jack’s Gelato, another reason for a day in Cambridge. A study of the menu and we both fancied trying the roasted banana, but sadly so had everyone else and they had just run out! Instead I had strawberries and elderflower with a second scoop of Mango sorbet, Mick Dark Chocolate with sea salt and a second scoop of Honeycomb, well we won’t be back in Cambridge or quite some time!

Double chilled medication

We called into Heffers for another birthday present, sadly the book in question was not on their shelves so we were directed to Waterstones. We were surprised at this until we found out that Waterstones bought Blackwells bookshops a few years ago. They were right to send us to the other shop, where we found one copy of a rather heavy book.

Books books books

Thank you Cambridge for an interesting tasty arty day out.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 guided buses, 1 art exhibition, 1 wrap, 1 sandwich, 2 scoops each, 1 heavy tomb, 1 very good day off, 1 blog post over a week late.