Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, Hockney’s 1971 picture of textile designer Celia Birtwell and her then husband, is in his retrospective at Tate Britain, which stretch outs this week. Here, Birtwell talks about the painting and her place as Hockney’s muse

David Hockney stands with Celia Birtwell in front of his 1971 painting of her, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy.


David Hockney stands with Celia Birtwell in facing of his 1971 painting of her, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy.
Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (atop), the portrait of me and Ossie [Clark, her then husband], was painted in our Notting Hill rooms. This is actually the bedroom, but the light came in better there, so we transferred some things around, like the shagpile rug, to make it look dig a living room. David couldn’t get Ossie’s feet, so I judge devise the rug was useful in the end. Ossie has a shirt with a bit of my print on the collar, which was acute. The cat in the picture is actually Blanche, but David said Percy had a wagerer ring to it. I have had a lot of cats in my life, but Blanche was a special one.

David took tons of pictures. I wasn’t wearing that dress in the pictures: I had by a hairs breadth got back from Morocco, so I was probably in a jellaba. It’s a bit of a mystery how this put on ones Sunday best clothes, an Ossie Clark design, ended up in the picture. I didn’t realise I till had it until I was going through things in the attic when I was disturbing together the Ossie exhibition in Warrington in 2000. I sold it final year through Kerry Taylor Auctions and it went to Manchester Art Gallery.

British fashion designer Ossie Clark with Birtwell, in 1971.

British forge designer Ossie Clark with Birtwell, in 1971. Photograph: Evening Criterion/Getty Images

The picture was painted at the beginning of Ossie’s happy result at Quorum [the shop Clark opened in 1966]. I had studied in Salford and upped to London to do various tedious jobs. Alice Pollock, Ossie’s partaker, asked me to do a couple of prints one season, then I just persevere b managed on. Ossie was an amazing cutter, and I am rather two-dimensional. We didn’t talk connected with the prints too much. He just said: “Do what you like.” It was weighty for me because there were no parameters.

The first time I dirty David was at Portobello market. I was with a friend who knew him. He scarcely stood out – he always has. He had on a corduroy jacket – and had the dyed blond braids. Ossie was better friends with him, and used to stay in his studio. I about he finds me a little bit ridiculous, but there is a fondness there. If I divert him, then that’s a compliment. It definitely works both road – he’s very funny.

Being a muse is a strand of my life I on no account anticipated. I’m a textile designer and I love doing that. I am decidedly proud of the series of drawings David did in the 70s: he was very keen on me then and that expos in the drawings. He also did a drawing of me for the cover of French Vogue in the 80s. Posing was the anonymous, but it has become part of me, like that painting.

David command always tell you if you look nice. I will dress up a bit when I see him because I recognize what he likes. Sometimes, he won’t say anything and sometimes he’ll give you a pay homage, which is lovely. He puts colours together brilliantly. I keep in mind going to Paris and wanting one pink boot and one blue, and him forward me.

He always said a little disarray is nice, if something is not entirely perfect. He wore odd socks for a long time. He had a white hat recently that was extraordinarily bedraggled and I asked if he would like me to wash it. Eventually, my alter ego and I tracked it down to a shop on Jermyn Street [in London] and sent him a new one. He was charged. I think he’s quietly pleased with his fashion reputation. Recently, he’s been attire bespoke suits from Savile Row, but also a really annoyed cashmere cardigan that he painted in every day, so it’s full of live it up.

David Hockney’s retrospective at Tate Britain opens on Thursday.


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Topics

  • David Hockney

  • Tate Britain

  • Art


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