Hockney and Cavafy in the British Museum

It is Friday. The British Museum is open late. Right now, it’s full of schoolchildren. They slouch all over the galleries in their jeans and backpacks. Some are French. One French schoolgirl calls an elevator by pressing one sneakered foot against the down button. Remind self never to touch a button in the British Museum. Ever. Another sits on the floor of a gallery, just staring in a kind of daze. Two of her friends come sit next to her. They don’t ask her if anything’s wrong.

The Hockney sketches are in a room right next to the British Watercolors, 1850-1950. Self walked all through the watercolor exhibit yesterday. It was so amazing.

She went back today for the Hockneys.

She loves Cavafy. So does Hockney.

Hockney’s sketches of men are simple pencil, or pen and ink. They are so evocative. Two men lie naked in bed together. There’s one simply entitled “Peter, 1966.”

How beautifully he captures the form of these men in repose! Some of the schoolboys in the gallery were giggly, though not to the point of disrespectfulness.

There’s also a sketch of a shopkeeper standing at the door to his business. Beneath that sketch is a Cavafy poem, “In the Dull Village”:

In the dull village where he works —
as a clerk in a shop;
very young — and where he waits
for two or three months to go by
another two or three months till business slows down,
to go then to the town and throw himself immediately
into its life and entertainment,
In the dull village where he waits —
he went to bed love-sick tonight,
his whole youth afire with fleshly passion,
beautiful youth beautiful in intensity.
And pleasure came to him in sleep; he sees
and has the body he desires in his sleep.

— C. P. Cavafy

Further background on the exhibit is here.

It runs through this Sunday, May 14.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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