John Kasmin is an art dealer, small of stature (under 5’6”) but not of reputation, who is perhaps best known (to me at least) for launching the career of David Hockney.
He discovered Hockney at the Royal Society of British Artists’ 1961 show, Young Contemporaries, where he bought one of the painter’s most striking early works, Doll Boy, for a mere £40. Kasmin’s interest was unexpected as he specialised largely in American colourfield painters. “I liked the young Hockney’s cheekiness,” is how he described the attraction in a recent interview.
But why have I drawn Mr Kasmin naked instead of wearing one of his elegant suits? It’s the first tentative step in a series of drawings celebrating the wonders of the older body, both male and female. The media’s obsession with physical perfection – as well as causing all sorts of problems around body image among young people – means that the middle-aged and older body, even in art more often than not, is sidelined. Yet the body can be as revealing as the face in charting life’s journey and the curves and folds have a beauty of their own: our life stories are written on the skin.
I’m not the first to have had this idea, of course, and it might well remain in my head rather than on paper like my ‘plastic in the seas’ project. In case you were wondering how I persuaded a legendary art dealer to strip off, I must confess that Mr Kasmin’s chest is based on my own, drawn in front of my bedroom mirror.