A Bigger Splash
A Bigger Splash was painted in Califomia in the early summer of 1967. It is a record of a typical warm, sunny, cloudless day; from the position of the shadows cast by the eaves of the building and the chair, it appears to be midday when the sun is highest in the sky and the heat is most intense. The solitary figure, who has just dived into the pool, has been deliberately overwhelmed by the strength and composure of the rest of the composition. The hidden depths of this picture take longer to assimilate than its immediate joyful and decorative appeal...
The only section to break the balanced and cool abstraction of the strong horizontals and verticals is the diagonally placed diving board and the splash. The spindly diagonal legs of the folding chair in the distance echo the thrust of the actual splash, while the point at which the swimmer entered the pool, creating the splash, is emphasized and delineated above by an odd thickening of the narrow white line along the roof.
Hockney recalls that he began the painting by drawing the basic lines of the composition; it is unclear whether he means that he actually drew by graphic means upon the canvas or that he mapped out the lines and the areas they enclose by using strips of self-adhesive masking tape. Certainly there is no evidence of a preliminary underdrawing. The painting is executed in Hockney's favorite Liquitex on white cotton duck canvas. Except for the splash, the paint surface is very flat.
Hockney applied the paint to the various geometric divisions with a paint roller, and gave each area two or three layers. The colored areas abut one another, and the only parts where there is overpainting, as opposed to successive layering of the same tint of pigment, are those of small details, such as the grass, trees, the reflections in the window, the chair and the splash. These were painted on afterwards with a variety of brushes. Hockney obviously enjoyed working on the splash, '...the splash itself is painted with small brushes and little lines; it took me about two weeks to paint the splash. I loved the idea, first of all, of painting like Leonardo, all his studies of water, swirling things. And I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds; it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds.'
Not all of the canvas is painted, the areas uncovered being the wide border and the central narrow off-white line which marks the division between the pool edge and the pavement. The tonal relationships between the painted and unpainted sections have altered since 1967 because the original pure whiteness of the cotton duck canvas has slightly dulled with age.
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