David Hockney is as much a personality as he is an artist. Unapologetic and brave, the multitalented English artist has been hugely influential in the artistic sphere. Hockney is a major contributor to the world of Pop Art.
Born in Bradford, England, in 1937, David Hockney was the fourth of five children. His parents nurtured their son’s interests in artistic pursuits. By 1953, Hockney was attending the Bradford School of Art, where he proved to be a versatile student. It was at the Bradford School of Art that he learned how to express himself through the medium of oil painting. Since Hockney was a conscientious objector, he worked as a hospital orderly for several years as part of his National Service. Afterwards, he attended the Royal Academy, where he had the chance to work with artists such as Francis Bacon. Hockney was a talented student, earning many accolades from critics and instructors.
Hockney has always been an avid reader. As he matured as an artist, he increasingly drew on personal subject matter. His early work explored a variety of themes. The painting We Two Boys Together Clinging, completed in 1961, incorporates text from poet Walt Whitman’s works. Hockney had not openly acknowledged his sexuality until he started creating works of art that dealt with homosexual themes. By 1961, Hockney was able to sell some of his artwork to earn the funds for a trip to New York City. There, he met luminaries such as Andy Warhol. Hockney felt especially fascinated by California, and he soon made his way to the sunny and glamorous state, where he entered a new phase of his life as an artist. Paintings such as Man in Shower in Beverly Hills use a cool, bright palette to represent the Californian landscape. Hockney was also developing a more realistic style of painting. Completed in 1967, A Bigger Splash is a canvas that captures the clean lines and luxurious feel of wealthy California. In 1971, Hockney completed one of his most famous naturalistic paintings. Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy embodies the fresh colors and realistic style that Hockney brought to contemporary subjects. Hockney’s creativity could not be harnessed by oil paint alone. In the 1980s, he began focusing more intensely on “joiners,” a type of collage. These patchwork arrangements of photographs create fragmented portraits. He would work extensively with these vivid collages over the years, completing works such as Nicholas Wilder Studying Picasso. He also turned to self-portraiture, in keeping with his frequent focus on the personal. Over the decades, Hockney has been a vital and energetic force in the art world. The versatile artist has also designed sets and worked with printmaking.
In 2001, David Hockney shocked the art world by theorizing that classical artists used mirrors and prisms to construct complex scenes in their paintings. According to Hockney, in 1999 he started to notice a particular line that was present in older artworks as much as modern art. He reasoned that Renaissance artists utilized mirrors to sketch outlines of buildings and then plopped in additional details. To art historians, this implied that the painters “cheated” and the hypothesis met with much skepticism.
From mid-2004 to the end of that year, Hockney painted more than 100 watercolor studies and this marked his supposed return to art creation.
- In 2011, The Other Art Fair conducted a poll to determine the most influential British artist of all time. Hockney won, beating out many significant artists.
- At the Royal College, Hockney failed his art history courses. However, his strength as an artist earned him his diploma.
- Hockney was the subject of an intimate biographical film by Jack Hazan, released in 1974.