Anyone who acts the flaneur in David Hockney's current touring exhibition DAVID HOCKNEY: PORTRAITS cannot help but encounter the many portraits and influences of Peter Schlesinger, one of Hockney's clan of admirers and students. Hockney's portraits of Schlesinger show a handsome young man with stylish dignity and a most memorable presence. All that is to say re-reading Peter Scheslinger's 'Checkered Past: A Visual Diary Of The 60's And 70's' adds credibility to the observational skills he possessed and which were nurtured by his association with Hockney.
Schlesinger was invited by Hockney to London's Slade School of Art in 1968 at a youthful age 20. Hockney favored him and imbedded him in Hockney's wide circle of acquaintances and friends living and visiting in the Notting Hill district in London. Artists of every kind, from painters and sculptors to actors, musicians, dancers, photographers, interior designers, and yes, even the hoity toity of British society were gathered around the two. Schlesinger, himself a painter and sculptor, was wise enough to see the importance of the documentation of this pregnant artistic period and kept his camera in hand, capturing this inimitable time - the 1960s and 1970s.
Schlesinger was able to address his 'portraits' in the natural surroundings of his 'models', both in England and on the European Continent. The results are casual portraits of such luminaries as Hockney himself, W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Paloma Picasso, Twiggy, Robert Mapplethorpe, Yves Saint Laurent, Manolo Blahnik, Celia Birtwell, and Rudolf Nureyev, self portraits - many of these photographs were used by Hockney as sketch ideas for his drawings and paintings.
This entertaining and art history important book contains not only fine images, but also boasts comments from Schlesinger discreetly placed throughout the book, adding to the mood of that particular time during which the photographs were made. The controversial shoe designer Manolo Blahnik opens the volume with an appropriately campy forward, which sets a fine mood for what is to come. Once thought to be merely another photomontage of the 60s and 70s, Hockney's current exhibition throws new light and importance to Peter Schlesinger's book and his artistic career. It is well worth the price. Grady Harp, July 06