David Hockney's portraits, whether drawn, painted or printed, focus on people close to him - his parents, lovers and friends. The resulting familiarity is reflected in the tangibly subjective way he looks at his models. His compositions sensitively take into account their outward appearance and discreetly tell of their character and state of mind.
Hockney demonstrates supreme mastery when drawing with pen and ink. Like Henri Matisse before him, he succeeds in executing the thin black lines on the paper rapidly and with the appropriate degree of concentration. Sparingly and precisely, Hockney describes the two men on the couch. The younger of the two, who is sitting in the foreground and leaning back in a relaxed manner, is staring absently and introspectively away to the right. Behind him, leading the viewer's gaze into the depths of an undefined space, the noticeably older, bearded man is lying stretched out, his head supported by a soft cushion. He is holding on to the glass he has set down beside him and gazing directly at the artist through his spectacles.
The difference in their physiognomies is just as expressive as the significant contrast in their clothes. The outlines and minimal internal detailing convey the fashionable informality of the shirt, tie and belt buckle, and the stolid composure of the suit and braces. The artist has moved close to his models in order to characterise each man's physique in its casual presence. The chosen composition could be seen as the replication of a moment captured in a snapshot, but it required direct observation and almost psychological insight on the part of the artist to create this timeless, wearily passive mood among those present.
The subjects of this double portrait are named in the title. Unlike Eugene, Henry appears in many of Hockney's works. Hockney had been close friends with Henry Geldzahler (1935-1994) since the mid-1960s, when the latter was curator of American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was around this time that Hockney began to take an interest in subjects in his surroundings. In contrast to previously conceived scenes and illustrations of literary models, his pictures were now also determined by the world of Californian villas, swimming pools and interiors. Only in the course of this development did the artist also study human anatomy from direct observation. Portraiture would from now on become an important genre in his oeuvre.