'The Meeting' or 'Have a Nice Day, Mr Hockney', by Peter Blake
1981-3
oil on canvas, 99.2 cm x 124.4 cm
presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1983, out of funds bequeathed by Miss Helen Arbuthnot

This very amusing picture by the Pop Art painter Peter Blake (not to be confused with the New Zealand yachtsman of the same name who is at the moment the only one noded) is a reference, a homage, to a famous 19th-century painting by Gustave Courbet called The Meeting, or "Bonjour Monsieur Courbet". In that, painted in 1854, the artist bows to an acquaintance in the countryside. There is a third man, a servant, who looks meekly down.

In 1889 Paul Gauguin painted a response to this already famous picture in his own Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin. This was very different in style and colour but repeated the essential theme of the artist meeting someone else in a walk in the country.

Peter Blake transports it into modern California, and ironically transforms the countryside of the 19th century into typical Californian country: a strip of bright green grass amid concrete paths, with palm trees in the background and concrete walls adorned with advertisements for ice cream. The light is very bright, the sky is very blue above, except that the horizon is either the pretty luminous pink of dawn or dusk, or virulent smog.

In the background are a number of very healthy looking young people in baseball caps and roller skates. A pretty, nubile girl squats in some exercise rite preparatory to rollerskating, and observes the meeting.

So the rest of the scene is very different, but the three main figures are very very close to Courbet's original in stance and accoutrements. They're dressed in modern clothes, but carry walking sticks and hats in exactly the same positions as Courbet's figures, and there's a dog with them too. And the people look, to some extent, to be the same kinds of people.

On the right is the artist, a free spirit, much more casually dressed. In Blake's picture it is David Hockney, resident of Calfornia, in white T-shirt and chinos. Greeting him is the older, bearded, more conservative looking man. Blake makes him the great British abstract painter Sir Howard Hodgkin. And he paints himself as the servant behind Hodgkin, head bowed, somewhat in the shadows.

See the three pictures.
BLAKE at: www.etsu.edu/philos/classes/rk/postmodern/htmdescriptionpages/blake.htm
COURBET at: www.i-a-s.de/IAS/Bilder/COURBET/Bonjour.htm
GAUGUIN at: www.abcgallery.com/G/gauguin/gauguin120.html

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