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David Hockney

David Hockney

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  • Artnet - David Hockney
  • The New York Times - David Hockney’s Life in Painting: Spare, Exuberant, Full
  • Art in Context - David Hockney - Exploring the Pop Art Works of Painter David Hockney
  • Official Site of David Hockney Foundation
  • The Guardian - David Hockney: ‘Just because I’m cheeky, doesn’t mean I’m not serious’
  • The Art Story - David Hockney
  • Public Broadcasting Service - American Masters - David Hockney: The Colors of Music
  • David Hockney - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

David Hockney

David Hockney (born July 9, 1937, Bradford , Yorkshire, England) is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, photographer, and stage designer whose works are characterized by economy of technique, a preoccupation with light, and a frank mundane realism derived from Pop art and photography .

He studied at the Bradford College of Art (1953–57) and the Royal College of Art, London (1959–62), where he received a gold medal in the graduate competition. He visited the United States in 1961 and returned in 1964–67 to teach at the universities of Iowa , Colorado , and California and thereafter commuted between England and the United States until settling permanently in Los Angeles in 1978. That city’s intense glaring light and sleek “California modern” aesthetic had a pronounced influence on his work.

Close-up of a palette held by a man. Mixing paint, painting, color mixing.

Much of Hockney’s subject matter was autobiographical, including portraits and self-portraits and quiet incidental scenes of his friends and his quarters—e.g., Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972). The casual elegance and tranquil luminosity of these pieces also predominated in his still lifes. Hockney’s exploration of photography in the 1980s resulted in Pearblossom Hwy., 11–18th April 1986 and other ambitious photocollages. He published several series of graphic works in book form, including illustrations for Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1970) and The Blue Guitar (1977). Hockney also achieved international prominence as a stage-set designer for the opera and ballet .

After experimenting with abstract landscapes during the 1990s, Hockney considered the representation of space in a series of multi-paneled works during the early 21st century. He also pursued his long-standing interest in new technologies. Among the many large-scale pieces featured in the traveling exhibition “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture” (2012–14; “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” at the de Young Museum in San Francisco) were several compelling drawings done on an iPad. A traveling retrospective that opened at Tate Britain in 2017 attested to Hockney’s enduring popularity when it became the most-visited exhibition at that venue . The following year Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) , one of Hockney’s most well-known paintings, sold at auction for some $90 million, breaking the record for a living artist and cementing his place in the art history canon. Meanwhile, Hockney continued to draw landscapes with an iPad, including a multi-panel frieze (2020) of Normandy, where he spent the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work was shown the following year in the exhibition “A Year in Normandy” at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.

Hockney’s books included Hockney by Hockney (1976), Travels with Pen, Pencil, and Ink (1978), Paper Pools (1980), David Hockney Photographs (1982), China Diary (with Stephen Spender ; 1982), and Hockney Paints the Stage (1983). In 1989 he received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for painting . Queen Elizabeth II appointed Hockney to the Order of Merit —a group of no more than 24 individuals at a time who have distinguished themselves in science , art, literature, or public service—in 2012.

David Hockney

David Hockney

Who Is David Hockney?

David Hockney attended art school in London before moving to Los Angeles in the 1960s. There, he painted his famous swimming pool paintings. In the 1970s, Hockney began working in photography, creating photo collages he called joiners. He continues to create and exhibit art, and in 2011, he was voted the most influential British artist of the 20th century.

Early Life and Education

Hockney attended the Bradford College of Art from 1953 to 1957. Then, because he was a conscientious objector to military service, he spent two years working in hospitals to fulfill his national service requirement. In 1959, he entered graduate school at the Royal College of Art in London alongside other young artists such as Peter Blake and Allen Jones. He experimented with different forms, including abstract expressionism. He did well as a student, and his paintings won prizes and were purchased for private collections.

Early Work & Photography

Hockney’s early paintings incorporated his literary leanings, and he used fragments of poems and quotations from Walt Whitman in his work. This practice, and paintings such as We Two Boys Clinging Together , which he created in 1961, were the first nods to his homosexuality in his art.

Because he frequently went to the movies with his father as a child, Hockney once quipped that he was raised in both Bradford and Hollywood. He was drawn to the light and the heat of California, and first visited Los Angeles in 1963. He officially moved there in 1966. The swimming pools of L.A. were one of his favorite subjects, and he became known for large, iconic works such as A Bigger Splash . His expressionistic style evolved, and by the 1970s, he was considered more of a realist.

In addition to pools, Hockney painted the interiors and exteriors of California homes. In 1970, this led to the creation of his first “joiner,” an assemblage of Polaroid photos laid out in a grid. Although this medium would become one of his claims to fame, he stumbled upon it by accident. While working on a painting of a Los Angeles living room, he took a series of photos for his own reference, and fixed them together so he could paint from the image. When he finished, however, he recognized the collage as an art form unto itself, and began to create more.

Hockney was an adept photographer, and he began working with photography more extensively. By the mid 1970s, he had all but abandoned painting in favor of projects involving photography, lithographs, and set and costume design for the ballet, opera and theater.

In the late 1980s, Hockney returned to painting, primarily painting seascapes, flowers and portraits of loved ones. He also began incorporating technology in his art, creating his first homemade prints on a photocopier in 1986. The marriage of art and technology became an ongoing fascination—he used laser fax machines and laser printers in 1990, and in 2009, he started using the Brushes app on iPhones and iPads to create paintings. A 2011 exhibit at the Royal Museum of Ontario showcased 100 of these paintings.

In a 2011 poll of more than 1,000 British artists, Hockney was voted the most influential British artist of all time. He continues to paint and exhibit, and advocates for funding for the arts.


  • Name: David Hockney
  • Birth Year: 1937
  • Birth date: July 9, 1937
  • Birth City: Bradford
  • Birth Country: England
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Known for his photo collages and paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools, David Hockney is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.
  • Education and Academia
  • Theater and Dance
  • Astrological Sign: Cancer
  • Royal College of Art, London
  • Bradford College of Art

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  • Article Title: David Hockney Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/artists/david-hockney
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: October 26, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014

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David Hockney

David Hockney

British-American Painter

David Hockney

Summary of David Hockney

David Hockney's bright swimming pools, split-level homes and suburban Californian landscapes are a strange brew of calm and hyperactivity. Shadows appear to have been banished from his acrylic canvases of the 1960s, slick as magazine pages. Flat planes exist side-by-side in a patchwork, muddling our sense of distance. Hockney's unmistakable style incorporates a broad range of sources from Baroque to Cubism and, most recently, computer graphics. An iconoclast obsessed with the Old Masters , this British Pop artist breaks every rule deliberately, delighting in the deconstruction of proportion, linear perspective, and color theory. He shows that orthodoxies are meant to be shattered, and that opposites can coexist, a message of tolerance that transcends art and has profound implications in the political and social realm.


  • Like other Pop artists, Hockney revived figurative painting in a style that referenced the visual language of advertising. What separates him from others in the Pop movement is his obsession with Cubism. In the spirit of the Cubists, Hockney combines several scenes to create a composite view, choosing tricky spaces, like split-level homes in California and the Grand Canyon, where depth perception is already a challenge.
  • Hockney insists on personal subject matter - another thing that separates him from most other Pop artists. He depicts the domestic sphere - scenes from his own life and that of friends. This aligns him with Alice Neel , Alex Katz , and others who depicted their immediate surroundings in a manner that transcends a particular category or movement.
  • Hockney was openly gay, and has remained a staunch advocate for gay rights. In the context of a macho art scene that dismissed "pretty color" as effeminate, Hockney's bright greens, purples, pinks, and yellows are declarative statements in support of sexual freedom.
  • In actively seeking to imitate photographic effects in his work, Hockney is a forerunner of the Photorealists . He is also a heretic among purists who feel that painting should rely only on the artist's direct observations from nature. Though not universally accepted, Hockney's research into the history of art has shown that Old Masters, from Vermeer to Canaletto, frequently used the camera obscura (an early form of camera) to enhance their optical effects. If the revered Old Masters could use cameras, he implies, why can't we?

The Life of David Hockney

david hockney biography

Britain's beloved David Hockney has a career of breaking taboos and leading the avant-garde - to the point of being recognized as the most important artist to revitalized painting. And in his eighties, Hockney continues to be active and to make headlines.

Important Art by David Hockney

We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961)

We Two Boys Together Clinging

This early work by Hockney shows no sign of the slick landscapes or carefully observed characters that he would later develop. It is one of the first, however, to address homoeroticism, an important theme in his work. In a composition that resembles a child's drawing, two figures kiss and embrace. Stylized, blocky forms and scrawled words offer symbols as opposed to descriptions of the encounter. Small horizontal lines of pigment run from one figure to the other, representing the erotic charge between them. A sketchy swathe of blue hints at a sense of place. Hockney's semi-abstracted figures and muted color palette recall those of Jean Dubuffet, a stylistic preference indicative of the challenge of finding a way to represent forbidden feelings. At a time when homosexual activity was still illegal in both the U.S. and in Britain, the representation of an erotic act between two men was unusual and potentially risky. The title is a direct quote from Walt Whitman, master of homoerotic poetry, and the image was inspired by a report of a climbing accident in a newspaper that read "Two Boys Cling to Cliff All Night." This unintended double meaning delighted Hockney, who had a crush on the British pop singer, Cliff Richard. These sources in popular culture and classic poetry offered the artist a way to address same-sex relationships in a way that didn't resort to caricature.

Oil on board - Southbank Centre, London

A Bigger Splash (1967)

A Bigger Splash

Hockney painted this seminal work while at the University of California in Berkeley. A Bigger Splash was created as the final result of two smaller paintings in which he developed his ideas, A Little Splash (1966) and The Splash (1966). A Bigger Splash is a considerably larger work, measuring approximately 94 x 94 inches. Hockney was one of the first artists to make extensive use of acrylic paint, which was then a relatively new artistic medium. He felt that as a fast-drying substance it was more suited to depicting the hot, dry landscapes of California than traditional oil paints. He painted this work by stapling the canvas to his studio wall. In A Bigger Splash , Hockney explores how to represent the constantly moving surface of the water. The splash was based on a photograph of a swimming pool Hockney had seen in a pool manual. He was intrigued by the idea that a photograph could capture the event of a split second, and sought to recreate this in painting. The buildings are taken from a previous drawing Hockney had done of a Californian home. The dynamism of the splash contrasts strongly with the static and rigid geometry of the house, the pool edge, the palm trees, and the striking yellow diving board, which are all carefully arranged in a grid containing the splash. This gives the painting a disjointed effect that is absolutely intentional, and in fact one of the hallmarks of Hockney's style. The effect is one of stylization and artificiality, drawing on the aesthetic vocabulary of Pop art and fusing it with Cubism. He said in his autobiography, "I love the idea first of all of painting like Leonardo, all his studies of water, swirling things. And I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds: it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds."

Acrylic on canvas - Collection of the Tate, United Kingdom

American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) (1968)

American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)

While Hockney paints a broad range of subjects, some of his most masterful compositions are his portraits of the late 1960s. These offer unrivaled, almost cinematic, insights into the mood and culture of this transitional decade in American history. Here are Fred and Marcia Weisman, art collectors and friends of Hockney, who appear outside their residence as if stepping outside to greet a neighbor. Hockney's blinding, saturated palette mimics the light of Southern California. The Weismans are surrounded by their prized art possessions, among them an imposing modernist sculpture in a niche, and a totem pole that looks like it could be a third member of the family. Dry humor pervades all elements of the composition. The viewer half expects to see the vertical elements - the stiff couple and their belongings - blast off like space ships into the blue sky. The threat of the surreal lurking in this picture underscores the consistent relationship between Pop art and older movements. Also noteworthy is the manner in which the poses transgress traditional gender norms. Marcia, a full-figured matron in a robe held closed with one arm, bares her teeth, and strikes a sensual pose that is both gracious and confrontational. Fred, the man of the house, stands stiffly with his fists clenched, and is literally marginalized as he is pushed to the left-hand side.

Acrylic on Canvas - The Art Institute of Chicago

A Visit with Christopher and Don, Santa Monica Canyon (1984)

A Visit with Christopher and Don, Santa Monica Canyon

For this view of the "Santa Monica Canyon", Hockney draws on the language of Cubism, a strong influence on his artistic style throughout his life due to his deep admiration for the work of Picasso. For this work, he extends the Cubist visual vocabulary through his use of a rich color palette borrowed from the Pop art movement. The composition measures 6 x 20 feet, a scale normally reserved for grand subjects from history or the bible. It consists of two canvases side-by-side. And yet it is a subject normally reserved for smaller canvases, a household interior, in which Hockney combines representations of the California home with seaside views and portraits of himself at work to the left and right. There are no conventional architectural or painterly boundaries between the different elements of the composition. Hockney uses flat areas of color and texture to create distinct spaces. This work makes use of a multi-point "reverse" perspective, meaning that it contains several vanishing points that extend out towards the viewer rather than converging on a distant horizon. In the spirit of Cubism, Hockney offers more than one viewpoint, and extends the perspective outwards, drawing the viewer into the scene that is so big, one feels one might step right into it.

Oil on two canvases

A Bigger Grand Canyon (1998)

A Bigger Grand Canyon

Hockney began photographing the Grand Canyon in 1982, aiming "to photograph the unphotographable. Which is to say, space. [T]here is no question that the thrill of standing on that rim of the Grand Canyon is spatial. It is the biggest space you can look out over that has an edge." Not many artists attempt to paint The Grand Canyon . One reason is that it is so large, no indicator of depth, distance, or scale can convey it. The other is that the 19 th -century painter Thomas Moran produced what is considered by many to be the definitive version: a spectacular, monumental canvas so detailed, so complete, and so naturalistic that it set an unsurpassable standard. Unfazed by this precedent and directly inspired by Moran's famous view, ("intrigued to see how another artist grappled with representing the same vast, heroic space" according to the National Museum of American Art) Hockney produced A Bigger Grand Canyon - which is even larger than Moran's canvas. Sixty small canvases join together to create one large view representing just a portion of the canyon. Hockney is poking gentle fun at tourists with cameras, artists with easels, and the absurdity of attempting to map a three-dimensional experience onto a two-dimensional plane.

Oil on canvas

Winter Timber (2009)

Winter Timber

While many of Hockney's best-known works were inspired by photographs, this work was painted in front of the motif, at the corner of an old Roman road in Yorkshire, near his birthplace. The purple palette renders the landscape contemporary and eternal, like a computer-generated fairytale. It is one of the largest in a series of timber and "totems", as Hockney calls the lone tree stumps depicted in these representations. Throughout his career, Hockney has been interested in returning to tradition in order to examine it, but with an almost scientific detachment that places the viewer off-center. This view, presented across fifteen canvases, has two paths of perspective leading down the two roads through the woods. This means that the visual plane contains two vanishing points, rebuking the one-point perspective that has characterized Western art since the Renaissance. It also transgresses the single perspective of the camera lens, the point of view that has come to define how we see the world in photographs. The painting's two vanishing points lead outward toward us, creating a kind of double vision that heightens the kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory effect of the piece.

Oil on 15 canvases - Guggenheim, Bilbao

A Bigger Message (2010)

A Bigger Message

Created relatively late in Hockney's career, A Bigger Message is a culmination of a series of works by Hockney inspired by The Sermon on the Mount , Claude Lorrain's 1656 painting. Lorrain was one of Hockney's heroes - a French Baroque landscape painter (in English, simply "Claude"), known for revolutionizing the genre and basing his work on observation, Claude has had a strong effect on Hockney's landscapes. In order to create the painting, Hockney spent three weeks digitally cleaning the painting by Claude on his computer. Through this process, Hockney got to know the composition better, and created a thoroughly contemporary way of painting; rather than working from life, or even from the original work, his inspiration came from a mediated, doctored version of the Old Master's work. Hockney is fully aware that many art enthusiasts would frown on this process, and fully intends to tweak the nose of tradition. He is also, however, following in the footsteps of another renegade, Picasso, who painted Cubist versions of Velazquez's Las Meninas based in part on reproductions from newspapers and magazines. Distance from the original allows the artist to create his own spin on the scene. Hockney takes his palette not from Claude but from Pop art, and from his own earlier depictions of the Californian and Yorkshire landscapes. He draws more attention to the human figures in the foreground of the image, and represents the mountain as an oversized red rock, imbuing the scene with a distinct sense of drama absent from the original.

Oil on 30 canvases

Biography of David Hockney

One of five children, David Hockney was born into a working-class family in Yorkshire, northern England, in the industrial city of Bradford. His father, a conscientious objector during the Second World War, "had a kind heart" remembers Hockney. "He thought there should be justice in the world". He also romanticized the ideals of the Communist party in Russia. While adopting his father's anti-war stance, Hockney remained resistant to ideologies and hierarchies. As a schoolboy, Hockney says of himself, "I was always quite serious, but cheeky." Art was something he knew he wanted to do very early in life. At his school academically promising boys were forced to drop art as a subject and so he deliberately failed his exams. Interestingly, Hockney was born with synesthesia, meaning that he sees colors as a response to musical stimuli

Early Training

At 16, Hockney was admitted to the acclaimed Bradford School of Art, where he studied traditional painting and life drawing alongside Norman Stevens, David Oxtoby, and John Loker. Unlike most of his peers Hockney was from a more humble family, and he worked tirelessly, especially in his life drawing classes, recalling: "I was there from nine in the morning till nine at night."

In 1957 he was called up for National Service, but as a conscientious objector he served out his time as a hospital orderly. It was around this time that Hockney encountered the work of Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev , whose openness about his sexual identity gave Hockney the courage to reveal his own.

In 1959, Hockney went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London and was taught by several well-known artists, including Roger de Grey and Ceri Richards. His friends included R.B. Kitaj, Allen Jones, and Peter Blake. At the time, the college asked students to submit an essay along with their final work. Hockney refused, wanting to be judged solely on the basis of his art. Remarkably, the RCA, a bastion of tradition, changed its rules to allow him to graduate.

Mature Period

David Hockney Photo

Hockney's first solo show, held in 1963 at John Kasmin's gallery, proved very successful. The following year he traveled to Los Angeles for the first time, where he met leading intellectual and artistic figures including Christopher Isherwood, and designer Ossie Clarke, with whom he struck up a close friendship and later traveled to the Grand Canyon. He would later be best man at Clarke's wedding to Celia Birtwell, of whom he would paint and draw many portraits. Over the following few years, he resided almost permanently in California, teaching at various universities including Berkeley and UCLA, but also traveling extensively around the US and Europe. During this period he painted some of his best-known works, including A Bigger Splash (1967). He also began to design productions for the ballet, opera, and theater. While his synesthesia didn't play much of a role in most of his art-making, it did influence his set design work. He first listened to the musical score for each production, and then based his designs off of the colors he saw.

david hockney biography

In California during the 'swinging 60s', Hockney embraced the mood of experimentation, exploration, and iconoclasm. At a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the U.S. and Britain, Hockney's open love affairs and unapologetic attitude attracted the attention of newspapers and magazines. He met and started a long-term relationship with Peter Schlesinger, who also frequently acted as his model, a relationship that lasted from 1966 to 1971. Of his unconventional lifestyle and experimentation with drugs during this period, Hockney has commented: "you can't have a smoke-free bohemia. You can't have a drug-free bohemia. You can't have a drink-free bohemia." In 1973, Hockney moved to Paris, where he lived until 1975. By the mid-1970s, he was famous. 1974 saw a large traveling retrospective of his work, and a film about him directed by Jack Hazan. In 1976 Hockney published his autobiography and in 1978, he purchased property in Los Angeles' Hollywood Hills, where he maintains a residence and studio to this day.

The AIDS crisis of the 1980s changed the art world forever, and had a particularly profound impact on Hockney who recalls "the first person to die of AIDS that I knew was in 1983, and then for ten years it was lots of people. If all those people were still here, I think it would be a different place." A retrospective of Hockney's work was due to take place at London's Tate gallery in 1988. He threatened to cancel it in protest of anti-homosexual legislation being proposed in Britain at the time.

Late Period

The 1990s constituted a very productive period for Hockney, with a huge number of retrospectives and exhibitions around the world. In 1991, he began a relationship with John Fitzherbert, a former chef, which lasted for the next 25 years. One of his most important large-scale works, A Closer Grand Canyon , was completed in 1998. From 2000-01 he researched and wrote a book about the Old Masters , developing a theory that these artists made use of the camera far earlier than previously thought. For his research, Hockney assembled photocopies of Old Master paintings, from Byzantine Art to Van Gogh , on a huge wall in his LA studio. While Hockney's theory met with significant resistance, it has gained widespread support from the art history community. In 2002, Hockney moved to the Yorkshire seaside town of Bridlington. In the same year, he sat for 120 hours for a portrait painted by Lucian Freud . In return, Freud sat for four hours for him.

Hockney had a stroke in 2012, which for a while impaired his speech. Much to his relief, "the stroke didn't affect my drawing, and that's the most important thing." Only a few months later, one of his assistants, Dominic Elliot, died in Hockney's home. He had taken cocaine and ecstasy and drank a bottle of drain cleaner. Elliot had been in a relationship with Hockney's former partner John Fitzherbert, who was still living with him. At the high-profile inquest, Hockney was required to give evidence that the death was not a murder. In 2015, he decided to sell his mother’s Bridlington house and moved back permanently to Los Angeles.

The Legacy of David Hockney

Hockney in 2017

In 2011 a poll of British art students rated Hockney as the most influential artist of all time. His work has played a crucial role in reviving the practice of figurative painting. Chuck Close , Cecily Brown , and film director Martin Scorsese (especially the aesthetics of Taxi Driver (1976)) are among the artists inspired by Hockney. Hockney, still prolific, continues to reinvent himself, embracing contemporary technology. His most recent series of works was produced on an iPad. Despite his widespread fame, he remains an iconoclast, steadfastly refusing to accept institutional authority, even some of the highest honors, turning down an invitation to paint a portrait of the Queen (Hockney was "very busy" and couldn't make it), and a knighthood in 1990 (although he was awarded, and accepted, the Order of Merit in 2012). "I don't have strong feelings about the honours system" Hockney has remarked, "I don't value prizes of any sort. I value my friends."

Influences and Connections

Pablo Picasso

Useful Resources on David Hockney

  • David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975 By Christopher Simon Sykes
  • David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012 By Christopher Simon Sykes
  • A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney By Martin Gayford
  • Life of David Hockney: A Novel Our Pick By Catherine Cusset
  • True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney Our Pick By Lawrence Weschler
  • Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters By David Hockney
  • Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy Our Pick By David Hockney and Martin Gayford
  • David Hockney: A Yorkshire Sketchbook By David Hockney
  • A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen Our Pick By David Hockney and Martin Gayford
  • Hockney Pictures By David Hockney
  • David Hockney’s Dog Days By David Hockney
  • David Hockney: A Bigger Picture Our Pick By Margaret Drabble and Marco Livingstone
  • David Hockney. A Chronology. 40th Anniversary Edition Our Pick By Hans Werner Holzwarth
  • Hockney’s Portraits and People Our Pick By Marco Livingstone and Kay Haymer
  • David Hockney: Moving Focus By Helen Little
  • David Hockney Our Pick By Chris Stephens and Andrew Wilson
  • David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition By Richard Benefield et al.
  • Cameraworks By Lawrence Weschler
  • Hockney/Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature By Hand den Hartog Jager
  • Modernists and Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters Our Pick By Martin Gayford
  • Hockney on Photography: Conversations with Paul Joyce By Paul Joyce
  • Official David Hockney website Our Pick
  • David Hockney on the Tate's website
  • Sotheby's: David Hockney's Iconic Masterpiece, "The Splash" By Sotheby's / January 13, 2020
  • David Hockney: "Just because I'm cheeky doesn't mean I'm not serious" Our Pick By Simon Hattenstone / The Guardian / May 9, 2015
  • Imagining the Grand Canyon By Jane Kinsman / National Gallery of Australia
  • Painting Pioneer: Early Reflections of David Hockney By Steph Moffat / The Double Negative / December 11, 2013
  • David Hockney: "When I'm working I feel like Picasso, I feel I'm 30." By Tim Lewis / The Guardian / November 16, 2014
  • David Hockney returns to LA By Caroline Daniel / The Financial Times / October 11, 2013
  • David Hockney takes a drive through art history Our Pick By Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times / November 9, 2013
  • David Hockney on the purpose of artists By Mary M. Lane / The Wall Street Journal / November 25, 2014
  • How the iPhone and iPad transformed the art of David Hockney By Chris O'Brien / Los Angeles Times / October 27, 2013
  • David Hockney's Diaries Our Pick Trailer. Directed by Michael Blackwood
  • Interview (2012) Our Pick The Royal Academy's Exhibition: A Bigger Picture
  • Inside New York's Art World: David Hockney (1982)
  • David Hockney on What's Unphotographable (2004) Segment by Robert Hughes from The New Shock of the New
  • Interview with David Hockney In 1960s London
  • Lecture on Hockney by Lawrence Weschler (2013) Our Pick For David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition: 10/26/2013 - 1/20/14 at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • David Hockney: Painting and Photography (2015) Lecture at the Getty
  • David Hockney Interview: "The avant-garde have lost their authority" By Martin Gayford / The Spectator / November 22, 2014
  • David Hockney interview: "I'll go on until I'm bored" Our Pick By Martin Gayford / The Telegraph / May 7, 2014

Similar Art

Pablo Picasso: Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)

Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)

Alice Neel: Hartley (1965)

Hartley (1965)

Richard Hamilton: Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956)

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David Hockney Biography

david hockney biography

David Hockney was born on 9 July in Bradford, West Yorkshire. From an early age, he had a desire to be an artist. At the age of 11, he won a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School. In the first year, he purposefully came last in the form so that he would be able to study art – (reserved for non-academic boys)

At the age of 16, he was able to leave school and devote himself to art. He studied at the Bradford School of Art for three years. Within a short space of time, he gained a reputation as an innovative and talented artist. For two years he had to serve in two hospitals for his national service. He chose to be a conscientious objector and not serve in the army.

After serving his time in national service, he spent three years at the Royal College of Art where he became involved in the modernist movement of artistic expression. By 1960, he had his first public gallery. In 1961 he moved to New York and travelled to many of the artistic centres around the world. In 1963, he met leading pop-artist Andy Warhol and Hockney rapidly began to make a name for himself as a leading modern artist. After travelling across America, he settled down in Los Angeles in 1978. His artistic reputation and talent enabled him to make a good living from selling his works.

“What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing: you wouldn’t be an artist if you didn’t want to share an experience, a thought.”

– David Hockney

Art of David Hockney


Hockney Pool Figures


Mr and Mrs Clark

Many of his works are autobiographical in nature (he never accepts commisions). His paintings are reflective and often abstract, quite different in style to the realist painters of the Old Masters. He was also intrigued with everyday objects such as playing cards, toothpaste tubes or swimming pools. A distinctive feature of his art was the effort to display the emotion of feeling between different people in the painting. For example, his painting of Mr and Mrs Clark hinted at the distant nature of their relationship. Hockney had actually been the best man at their wedding and sensed underlying difficulties between the couple. (they did later divorce) It is a good example of how Hockney’s art was often based on real life experiences.

Hockney was a master in creating subtle, understated reflections of what people may be feeling.

Despite living in America, Hockney also retained a close connection to his native in Yorkshire. In 1989, he painted a large scale piece 48″ * 120″ on Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorkshire.

david hockney biography

Garrowby hill – the highest point on the Yorkshire Wolds

Hockney liked to innovate with new technology. He once faxed his paintings to a gallery and the gallery displayed these faxes as ‘genuine art’. When asked how his work should be returned, Hockney replied they could fax it back, and they would still get to keep the original art! Hockney liked to experiment with mixing artistic mediums, for example, he experimented with composites of polaroid pictures creating a collage from several photographs of the same object. He also frequently sought to create an effect of movement or repetition. To Hockney movement was important because he wanted to create a sense of time and space through his art and many paintings captured actual movement or the possibility of a journey through the painting.


David Hockney, Pearlblossom Hwy., 11 – 18th April 1986

David Hockney was brought up a Methodist but says he himself is not particularly religious but is still interested in the subject. As a child, he spent his time in Sunday School drawing cartoons of Jesus, which was an example of his independent spirit.

Personal life

Hockney is gay and has lived his life as openly homosexual at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in the UK. Hockney depicted homosexual themes in some paintings and sought to celebrate the uniqueness, difference and possibility of gay life.  In an interview with the Telegraph, he talks about his pride in being different to the majority.

“They want to be ordinary – they want to fit in. Well I don’t care about that. I don’t care about fitting in. Everywhere is so conservative.” ( link )

From an early age, his hearing started to deteriorate and in 1979, he got a hearing aid. He has a medical exemption to use cannabis for medical purposes.

Most expensive painting

In 2018, his work “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures): sold for $90 million (£70 million). This was a record for an artist who was still living at the time.

Quotes of David Hockney

“If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He’s not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he’s really needed.” The Telegraph (22 September 2001) “In the end nobody knows how it’s done — how art is made. It can’t be explained. Optical devices are just tools. Understanding a tool doesn’t explain the magic of creation. Nothing can.” “I can get excitement watching rain on a puddle. And then I paint it. Now, I admit, there are not too many people who would find that exciting. But I would. And I want life thrilling and rich. And it is. I make sure it is.” (28 July 2004) “Any artist will tell you he’s really only interested in the stuff he’s doing now. He will, always. It’s true, and it should be like that.” (26 February 2006) “All art is contemporary, if it’s alive. And if it’s not alive, what’s the point of it?” (26 February 2006)

Related pages


  • Great Yorkshiremen

Books on Hockney

  • David Hockney at Amazon.co.uk
  • David Hockney at Amazon.com

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David Hockney, Los Angeles, 1st March 2016

© David Hockney. Photo: Jean-Pierre Goncalves de Lima

David Hockney RA (b. 1937)

David Hockney studied at Bradford School of Art from 1953 to 1957 and the Royal College of Art from 1959 until 1962. He was awarded the Royal College of Art gold medal in 1962 in recognition of his mastery as a draughtsman and his innovative paintings. His early work was stylistically diverse, combining graffiti-like images with quotations from the poetry of Walt Whitman.

Hockney moved to Los Angeles in 1963. He produced highly evocative, sometimes homoerotic, iconic images of urban life. By the late 1960s his work had become more naturalistic but it was always characterised by Hockney’s alertness to the psychological and emotional resonance of his subject matter.

Hockney’s work also includes landscapes, photography, printmaking and stage designs for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Los Angeles Music Centre Opera.

Recent solo exhibitions have included the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2012), and Galerie Lelong, Paris (2013). The Royal Academy’s blockbuster David Hockney: A Bigger Picture opened in 2012, featuring large-scale works inspired by the East Yorkshire landscape.

After 2012, Hockney turned away from painting and from his Yorkshire home, returning to Los Angeles. Slowly he began to return to the quiet contemplation of portraiture. Over the months that followed, he became absorbed by the genre, creating a series of artworks that became the 2016 exhibition David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life

Royal Academician

Born: 1937 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom

Nationality: British

Elected ARA: 20 May 1985

Elected RA: 26 June 1991

Elected Senior RA: 1 October 2012

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Painting, Printmaking, Photography, and Theatre design

Works associated with David Hockney in the RA Collection

Anne-Katrin Purkiss, David Hockney R.A.

Anne-Katrin Purkiss

David Hockney R.A. , 1 August 1985

Silver bromide print. camera: probably east german praktica vlc2. film: ilford hp5.

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In the studio with David Hockney RA

David Hockney RA talks to curator Edith Devaney in his Los Angeles studio, just before his Royal Academy exhibition ‘82 Portraits and 1 Still-life’ in 2016.

David Hockney RA - Selected CV

Recent solo exhibitions.

2017 Tate Britain, London 2016 Royal Academy of Arts 2015 Pace Gallery, New York 2014 Dulwich Picture Gallery 2013 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Galerie Lelong, Paris 2012-13 Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford 2012 Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao Whitworth Gallery, Manchester Museum Ludwig, Cologne Royal Academy of Arts 2011 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark 2010 Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris Southbank Centre, London 2009 Nottingham Contemporary Pace Wildenstein, New York Annely Juda Fine Art, London Kunsthalle Würth, Künzelsau, Germany

Selected Collections

Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Norway J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, USA Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles USA National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff Tate, England Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England York City Art Gallery, England

Selected Publications

That’s the Way I See It , David Hockney, Thames and Hudson, 1999 Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters , David Hockney, Thames and Hudson, 2001 Hockney on Art , David Hockney, Little Brown, 2002 Hockney by Hockney , David Hockney, Thames and Hudson, 1988 David Hockney: A Drawing Retrospective , Ulrich Luckhardt and Paul Melia, Thames and Hudson, 2001 David Hockney, Marco Livingstone (World of Art Series), Thames and Hudson, 1996 Outlines: David Hockney , Peter Adam, Absolute Press, 1997

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Associated books

Constantine Cavafy

Fourteen poems / by C.P. Cavafy; chosen and illustrated with twelve etchings by David Hockney; translated by Nikos Stangos and Stephen Spender - London: 1967

David Posner

A rake's progress : a poem in five sections - London: 1967

Associated archives

David Hockney RA 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life

Item RAA/PRE/5/2/555

Dennis Hopper - the Lost Album

Item RAA/PRE/5/2/535

David Hockney RA A Bigger Picture

Item RAA/PRE/5/2/500

, David Hockney RA A Bigger Picture

Item RAA/PRE/5/2/499

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David Hockney ( British , born 1937 )

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David Hockney

British, English

A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash 1967

David Hockney (b.1937)

David Hockney (b. Bradford, 9 July 1937). British painter, draughtsman, printmaker, photographer, designer, and writer, active mainly in the USA. After a brilliant prize-winning career as a student at the Royal College of Art, Hockney had achieved considerable success by the time he was in his mid-twenties, and he has since consolidated his position as by far the best-known and most critically acclaimed British artist of his generation. His phenomenal success has been based not only on his flair and versatility as an artist, but also on his colourful and engaging personality, which has made him a recognizable figure even to people not particularly interested in art. In 1961 he emerged as one of the leaders of British Pop art at the Young Contemporaries exhibition.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

Artworks by David Hockney

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices

Andrew Greg

'Made in Britain' exhibition

Robert Priseman

david hockney biography

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david hockney biography

Tim Cornwell

david hockney biography

Miriam O'Connor Perks

'Muse' by Ruth Millington

Ruth Millington

david hockney biography

Molly Tresadern

Olympic Games poster, Stockholm 2012

Ferren Gipson

david hockney biography

Hammad Nasar

david hockney biography

Learning resources


  • KS2 (ENG) KS2 (NI) CfE L2 (SCO) PS2 (WAL) PS3 (WAL) KS3 (ENG) KS3 (NI) CfE L3 (SCO) CfE L4 (SCO) KS3 (WAL) KS4 (ENG) KS4 (NI) CfE Sen. (SCO) KS4 (WAL)


  • KS2 (ENG) KS2 (NI) CfE L2 (SCO) PS3 (WAL)


  • EYFS (ENG) FD (NI) CfE EY (SCO) PS1 (WAL) KS1 (ENG) KS1 (NI) CfE L1 (SCO) PS2 (WAL) KS2 (ENG) KS2 (NI) CfE L2 (SCO) PS3 (WAL) KS3 (ENG) KS3 (NI) CfE L3 (SCO) CfE L4 (SCO) KS3 (WAL)


  • KS3 (ENG) KS3 (NI) CfE L3 (SCO) CfE L4 (SCO) KS3 (WAL)


  • KS2 (ENG) KS2 (NI) CfE L2 (SCO) PS3 (WAL) KS3 (ENG) KS4 (ENG) KS3 (NI) KS4 (NI) CfE L3 (SCO) CfE L4 (SCO) KS3 (WAL) KS4 (WAL)


  • KS4 (ENG) KS4 (NI) CfE L4 (SCO) KS4 (WAL) KS5 (ENG) KS5 (NI) CfE Sen. (SCO) KS5 (WAL)


Find out more

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

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Who are they?

Who is David Hockney?

There’s a lot more to David Hockney than just paintings of swimming pools. So, why is he so important?

What is he famous for?

David Hockney is one of the most important painters of the 20th century. If you were to Google, famous British painters, there’s a good chance that Hockney’s name will appear. Born in Bradford in 1937, Hockney was one of the big artists involved in the pop art movement in the 1960s. Pop art was a style of art that was bright, full of colour. It was made by lots of young artists who felt that the art they saw in galleries was a little bit boring. To find out more about pop art, watch our handy video . It’s likely that you’ll learn about pop art in school and then you can mention Hockney and impress all your friends and teachers.

What does he like to paint?

David Hockney Going Up Garrowby Hill 2000 Private Collection © David Hockney

Hockney lives in London, but owns two other homes in California. You can imagine then that a lot of his work varies, because California and the UK are very different places. California is usually always sunny, where as in England the weather changes all the time. So, when painting in England, Hockney likes to paint the seasons. In Going Up Garrowby Hill , Hockney has painted a canvas of the landscape in Yorkshire, where he was brought up. There are lots of different colours. Why do you think this?

David Hockney A Bigger Splash (1967) Tate

© David Hockney

When in California, his paintings are colourful and bold. In A Bigger Splash , Hockney paints a swimming pool. It looks like someone has just jumped into the water. The blue is so bright that you want to get on the diving board and jump in too. And look at how tall those palm trees are! You won’t find palm trees like that in England.

Does he like painting people?

Yes! Lots of Hockney’s work involves painting people he loves. This is usually pairs of people. My Parents is a painting of his mum and dad and is probably one of his most famous. Look at how he illustrates their personalities. His mother sits upright and attentive, while his father is absorbed in his paper and seems a little bit on the edge of his seat. It’s like Hockney has captured how he feels about his parents in a painting that will last forever.

Hockney wants to capture his relationships with the people he knew. Many of his paintings are of men that he loved and spent time with. Like the painting of his parents, they show a tenderness towards the people who really mattered for Hockney. This includes his friends and other couples Hockney admired. In George Lawson and Wayne Sleep , Hockney shows Wayne, a dancer, and his partner George. The way Wayne, who is framed in the doorway, gazes at George shows a look of love that Hockney clearly felt was important to share.

David Hockney George Lawson and Wayne Sleep (1972–5) Tate

So, where is Hockney today?

David Hockney Views of Hotel Well I (1984–5) Tate

Hockney is still painting and trying lots of new experiments with art. Some of his most recent work includes painting on iPads. The great thing about iPads is that once the work has been complete, you can go back and see how the painting was created. It’s like rewinding time. Isn’t that incredible?

How do you feel about Hockney’s work? Why not try picking up a paintbrush or iPad and start painting like Hockney. Start with bold colours and paint your local swimming pool and your local park. Or, if you like painting people, maybe start by painting your family. Try and show how you feel about them in your painting.

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About David Hockney (republished from brain-juice.com)

David Hockney has often been regarded as a playboy of the art world. He has had lascivious relationships, and he has run among strange and crazy artistic circles. Yet he has always retained a sense of stability in his life through his constant and tireless devotion to his work. Hockney is an artist that has always enjoyed success and praise, facing little to no hardship in his career. What is interesting about his life is not the problems he has encountered, but the strides he has taken to bypass much human suffering and malaise. David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England, to Laura and Kenneth Hockney. The Hockneys were, as David said, a "'radical working-class family.'" Laura and Kenneth were solid parents who only wanted their children to have the best education possible. Laura raised her children as strict Methodists and resolutely shunned smoking and drinking in the home. Kenneth was a passionate radical and a conscientious objector during World War I. David Hockney was always considered an eccentric in Bradford. He never really cared what people thought of him and always did as he pleased. He spent afternoons at Sunday School drawing cartoons of Jesus, much to his teachers' dismay. As a young child, Hockney also developed an obsession with opera when he first saw the Carl Rosa opera company's production of La Bohème . In 1948, David Hockney won a scholarship to the Bradford Grammar School, one of the best schools in the country. Here he enjoyed his art classes most and thus decided that he wanted to become an artist. Furthermore, he disliked the other subjects he was required to study. In 1950, he asked to be transferred to the Regional College of Art in Bradford so that he could more seriously pursue his interest. However, the headmaster recommended that he first finish his general education before transferring anywhere. Hockney responded with misfit behavior towards his teachers and poor grades, even though he had found much success in school before this. He spent his class time doodling in notebooks. Nonetheless, his artistic leanings also won him prizes and recognition, and he drew comics for the school newspaper. Overall, he was a likeable and intelligent student with many friends. In 1953, Hockney finally enrolled in the College of Art and began painting with oils, his medium of choice for most of his life. Hockney learned that painting was a process of seeing and thinking, rather than one of imitation. His artwork was abstract and quite personal and allowed him to deal with human sexuality and love in a public, yet still inhibited manner. He developed a penchant for painting mirrors and loved the artwork of painters such as Francis Bacon and other contemporaries. Socially, he made a lot of friends, but never really expressed any sexual interests. His group of acquaintances would often travel into London to catch various art shows. In the summer of 1957, Hockney took the National Diploma in Design Examination. He graduated with honors and then enrolled in the Painting School of the Royal College in London two years later, where and when he would gain national attention as an artist. Hockney immediately felt at home at the Royal College. There were no steadfast rules or regulations. Not only did he find much success and pride in his work, but he also thrived in the many friendships he made there. He and his friends spent much of their time in the studio, but they explored the pubs and coffee bars around town as much as possible. Hockney was a serious student, however, and dedicated much effort to painting. During his first term, he experimented with more abstract styles, but he felt unsatisfied with that work, and he still sought his own style. His professors were good and receptive to his artwork, but Hockney seemed to learn the most from his fellow students who shared similar artistic interests and insights. Furthermore, he was quite a self-motivated sort of person and began to feel a need for meaningful subject matter, and so Hockney began painting works about vegetarianism and poetry he liked reading. After a little while, Hockney even began painting about his sexual orientation, writing words such as "queer" and 'unorthodox lover" in some of his paintings. While Hockney had been aware of his attraction to males growing up in Bradford, he had never felt comfortable talking about his sexual orientation until he came to the Royal College and befriended other gay men. In the summer of 1961, Hockney traveled to New York for the first time. His friend Mark Berger showed him around all the city's galleries and museums, while his other friend Ferrill Amacker showed him the hot gay spots. To pay for the trip, Hockney sold several of his paintings. He was also able to work on other paintings and sketches while he was there at the Pratt Institute's facilities. It was from his New York sketchbooks that Hockney came up with the idea for an updated version of William Hogarth's "Rake's Progress," which he eventually finished two years later. Hockney was offered five thousand pounds for the plates and thus was able to live in America for a year at the end of 1963. In the mean time, he finished his studies at the Royal College and received considerable attention from critics, professors, and peers at several student shows. At this time early on in Hockney's career, his artwork was poetic and tended to tell stories. He even wrote poetic ramblings on many of his paintings as well. For a short time, Hockney was in danger of not receiving his diploma because he had failed his Art History courses. Nonetheless, he was awarded the gold medal for outstanding distinction at the convocation and ended his college career on a tremendously good note. In New York, Hockney befriended Andy Warhol, at whose studio young artists often met and socialized. He also met Dennis Hopper that same night. However, Hockney's main purpose in returning to the States was not to meet peers, but rather to travel to California. Hockney had become fascinated with the images of young, built, and tan men in the publication Physique Pictorial , which he had collected while in London, and he was hungry to experience the sleazy underground world of Los Angeles. He immediately loved the city and made Santa Monica his home. Spending much of his day at Santa Monica pier, Hockney would just people-watch and admire the beautiful boys that seemed to be at the beach every day of the year. This new environment greatly inspired him. In his California paintings, such as Man in Shower in Beverly Hills (1964), Hockney featured mainly wet, sculpted men and typically colorful southern California architecture. Overall, he was enamoured of the more laid-back, sunny lifestyle that the city of Los Angeles provided. It was around this time that Hockney developed the naturalistic, realistic style he is most known for today. In the summer of 1964, Hockney was invited to teach at the University of Iowa. He was generally bored with this new milieu but was able to complete four paintings in six weeks there. An old friend from London Ossie Clark came to America for the first time and visited Hockney in Iowa. The two traveled across the country a bit, visiting gay bars. At the same time, Hockney hosted his first American exhibition in New York. He received rave reviews and sold every painting. In December of 1964, Hockney returned to London to give a talk on homosexual imagery in America. A year later, he returned to America to teach at the University of Colorado in Boulder. There he lived in an apartment without windows and painted the Rocky Mountains from his memory. After his term there, Hockney went to California with some old friends. One night in Hollywood, Hockney met the blond beach bum of his dreams, "a marvelous work of art, called Bob," and took him home. The two drove to New York, and Hockney flew Bob out to London, but soon realized that it was a mistake and sent the boy home. Two years later, Hockney experienced his first true romance with a nineteen-year-old student named Peter Schlesinger. Schlesinger was just about everything Hockney ever wanted in a man. He was attractive, smart, young, innocent, and in great need of Hockney's guidance. Schlesinger became a favorite subject of Hockney's, and the many drawings of him show the informal intimacy of the two. A year later, Schlesinger transferred to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz and moved into an apartment with Hockney. During the day, Hockney would paint, but at night the two would often lie in bed drinking wine and reading. Hockney was very happy. In June of 1967, Hockney took his new beau to Europe, and the two toured the continent. At this time, Hockney's interest in photography grew. He would take endless shots of Schlesinger, mostly for fun, but also for study. For many years after that, Hockney remained content painting and showcasing his work at various exhibits. His work had gained much esteem and attention all over the world. Critics instantly recognized the power of his art. Most of his paintings from the late sixties and early seventies, particularly Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy (1970-1971), adhered to the concept of naturalism -- that is, representing things as they were actually seen. His interest in photography greatly advanced his skill in this area, but Hockney felt as though he depended on it too much from time to time. He liked using the photographs more for the study of light, rather than to aid his memory. For the most part, Hockney was concerned with finding a balance between pure skill and pure art in his idea of naturalism. He did want his art to seem overtly academic, but moreover, he had not satisfied his abstract tendencies. In 1971, Hockney experienced some tension in his relationship with Schlesinger. The age difference had become a problem, and Schlesinger wanted some independence and room to grow. Hockney's eye also began to wander, and his social life became more active once again. He continued to entertain large groups of people in his studio and basked in the glory of his fame. Hockney decided to travel to America for a break, and when he returned, he found out that Schlesinger had moved to Paris and had been having an affair. Although he was hurt, Hockney was very relieved. A while later, the two reunited in Barcelona, but once again had many difficulties. Schlesinger felt that Hockney placed his work above everything else and felt as though he himself were only an erotic object to be shown off to others. He decided never to move back in with Hockney again. Hockney was devastated and started taking Valium to combat the depression and loneliness he suffered. In February of 1974, Jack Hazan finished a biographical film on Hockney's life. At first, Hockney was shocked and devastated by the film, which had brought many issues that hit too close to home for him. In particular, he was disturbed by the film's portrayal of his romantic relationship with Schlesinger. However, after the film had received some attention and praise, Hockney realized that he had to swallow his pride and sign for its release in order to give Hazan the respect and admiration he deserved. The film was banned in many countries for its explicit portrayal of homosexuality, but won many awards among the critics. In the eighties, Hockney turned to photo collage. Using a Polaroid camera, Hockney would assemble collages of photos that he would take as quickly as possible. Hockney was fascinated with the idea of seeing things through a window frame. This medium allowed him to see things in a whole new fashion. He took a drive in the southwest United States taking thousands of photos and fitting them altogether into various collages, such as You make the picture, Zion Canyon, Utah . His artwork also began to take on a psychological dimension. In the autumn of 1983, Hockney began a series of self-portraits, allowing the public to enter his personal inner life. It is obvious in these works that Hockney was quite vulnerable and unsure of himself, even though he had achieved major success in his life as an artist. In the nineties, Hockney continued to experiment with rising technologies. He used a color laser copier in some of his works and reproduced some of his paintings. Hockney was impressed with the vibrancy of color that could be achieved using such devices. He also began sending drawings to friends via fax machines and was thrilled with this new way of communication. Much of the appeal lay in the fact that these newly produced images had no financial value at all. Thus sharing art became a true act of love and appreciation. Hockney's life and all his loves are always on display to the public. By embracing all sorts of technology and media, Hockney has made his art accessible to people everywhere. He has used art to express the love he has felt for others, and consequently, his works show personal stake and personal meaning. Ironically, his artwork caused much personal suffering and strife in the making and breaking of his romances, while at the same time, garnering him much respect and admiration. Hockney has truly made art a form of real human interaction and communication.


David Hockney

  • American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman), 1968 David Hockney
  • Sunday Morning, Mayflower Hotel, N.Y., November 28, 1983 David Hockney
  • Inland Sea, Japan, 1971 David Hockney
  • The Old Guitarist, from The Blue Guitar, 1976–77 David Hockney
  • Telephone Pole, Los Angeles, California, September 1982 David Hockney
  • What Is This Picasso?, from The Blue Guitar, 1976–77 David Hockney
  • A Picture of Ourselves, from The Blue Guitar, 1976–77 David Hockney
  • Figures with Still Life, from The Blue Guitar, 1976–77 David Hockney
  • Gonzalez and Shadow, 1972 David Hockney
  • In a Chiaroscuro, from The Blue Guitar, 1976–77 David Hockney
  • Serenade, from The Blue Guitar, 1976–77 David Hockney
  • Pembroke Studio with Blue Chairs and Lamp, 1985 David Hockney

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  • Finn MacCool, from Imaging Ulysses, 1983 Richard Hamilton
  • Five Tyres Remoulded, 1972 Richard Hamilton
  • Portrait of the Artist by Francis Bacon, 1970–71 Richard Hamilton
  • Swinging London 67, 1968 Richard Hamilton
  • In Horne’s House, from Imaging Ulysses, 1981–82 Richard Hamilton
  • Bronze by Gold, from Imaging Ulysses, 1985–87 Richard Hamilton
  • Leopold Bloom, from Imaging Ulysses, 1983 Richard Hamilton
  • Landscape 8, from Ten Landscapes, 1967 Roy Lichtenstein
  • Flowers (Hand-colored), 1974 Andy Warhol

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David Hockney Biography

David Hockney's body of work is a testament to his unwavering creativity and adaptability. From his early days as a painter in the Pop Art movement to his pioneering work in digital art, Hockney's journey is a source of inspiration for artists and art enthusiasts alike. His ability to capture the essence of landscapes, people, and emotions has secured his legacy as a true master of art, and his impact on the art world is immeasurable. David Hockney's story is a reminder that art knows no bounds, and innovation knows no age, and his work will continue to inspire and captivate audiences for generations to come.

David Hockney's Early Life: David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England. From a young age, his artistic talent was evident, and he pursued his passion by studying at the Bradford School of Art. Later, he continued his education at the Royal College of Art in London, where he honed his skills and developed his unique artistic vision.

The Versatile Mediums of David Hockney: One of the defining aspects of David Hockney's career is his extraordinary versatility in mediums. He has seamlessly transitioned between various forms of artistic expression, leaving his mark in each.

  • Painting: Hockney's early works primarily featured painting. He gained recognition for his captivating portraiture and was part of the influential Pop Art movement in the 1960s. His iconic painting "A Bigger Splash" from 1967 is a testament to his mastery of the medium.
  • Drawing: Hockney's drawings are celebrated for their precision and detail. He often used pencils, charcoal, and other drawing tools to create intricate works that capture the essence of his subjects.
  • Printmaking: Hockney is known for his innovation in printmaking techniques. His series of etchings, such as "The Weather Series," showcases his ability to experiment with various printmaking methods.
  • Photography: In the 1980s, Hockney ventured into photography, embracing technology to explore new artistic horizons. He experimented with polaroid collages and joined photographs to create visually striking montages.
  • Digital Art: Hockney's willingness to embrace technology continued with his foray into digital art. He utilized the iPad and other digital tools to create a series of vibrant and dynamic paintings, demonstrating his adaptability to modern mediums.

Hockney's Key Themes and Influences: Throughout his career, David Hockney has explored several recurring themes that have become synonymous with his work.

  • Landscape: The California landscape, where Hockney spent a significant portion of his career, has been a prominent subject in his paintings. He captured the vivid colors and light of the California landscape in iconic works like "A Bigger Grand Canyon."
  • Portraits: Hockney's portraits are renowned for their emotional depth and psychological insight. His subjects, including friends and family, are depicted with a sense of intimacy that allows viewers to connect on a personal level.
  • Water: The theme of water is central to Hockney's art. His pool paintings, such as "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)," are celebrated for their depiction of water's reflective and transformative qualities.
  • Love and Relationships: Hockney's exploration of love and human relationships is a recurring motif in his work. His personal experiences and emotions often find expression in his art, adding a layer of authenticity to his creations.

David Hockney's Success and Recognition: Hockney's artistic journey has been marked by extraordinary success and recognition, earning him a revered place in the art world.

  • 1960s Pop Art Movement: In the 1960s, Hockney gained prominence as a leading figure in the Pop Art movement, alongside contemporaries like Andy Warhol. His paintings, including "A Bigger Splash" and "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)," garnered critical acclaim.
  • Royal Academy of Arts: Hockney was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1991. This prestigious honor underscored his status as a respected artist in his home country.
  • Major Retrospectives: Throughout his career, Hockney has been the subject of numerous major retrospectives at renowned institutions worldwide, including the Tate Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
  • Record-Breaking Auctions: Hockney's works have achieved record-breaking prices at auctions, solidifying his position as one of the most sought-after artists in the market. "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" sold for $90.3 million in 2018, setting a new record for a living artist.
  • Legacy: David Hockney's influence extends far beyond the canvas. His willingness to embrace new mediums and technologies has inspired generations of artists to experiment and push boundaries in their own work.

David Hockney

David Hockney , a renowned British artist, is celebrated for his distinctive style, technical innovation, and profound impact on contemporary art. With a career spanning over six decades, Hockney has explored a wide range of mediums, from painting and drawing to photography and digital art. In this article, we will delve into the life and artistic biography of David Hockney, examine his value in the art world, and highlight some of his most important and influential artworks.

Life and Background:

One of five children, David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England, where he lived there until 1953 when he began his studies at the Bradford School of Art, where he received traditional art training. After graduating in 1957, he became a conscientious objector and worked as a hospital orderly for his National Service. When his service was done, in 1959, he began his studies at the Royal College of Art, London.

During that time, he showed his art in the Young Contemporaries exhibition at the RBA Galleries and began to gain critical acclaim for his work, which was often lighthearted. Soon a leading Pop artist, although he himself rejected the label, he turned to more traditional representations with a focus on painting portraits. Moving to the United States in the 1960's, he embraced his homosexuality, with his artwork exhibiting homo-erotic content. Besides portraits and homosexuality, another one of his favorite themes from his time in the United States was the swimming pool, which was more a display of his love for Los Angeles.

Artistic Development and Significance:

Hockney rose to prominence in the 1960s, becoming a leading figure in the British Pop Art movement. His early works incorporated elements of popular culture and explored themes of consumerism and mass media. Hockney's style evolved over time, encompassing various periods, including his iconic swimming pool paintings, landscapes, portraiture, and experimentation with digital technology.

Value in the Art World:

David Hockney holds significant value in the art world, both commercially and artistically. His works have achieved record-breaking prices at auctions, reflecting the demand and appreciation for his art. Hockney's innovative use of color, composition, and perspective, coupled with his ability to capture the essence of a subject, have contributed to his enduring popularity among collectors and art enthusiasts worldwide.

Artistic Biography and Important Artworks:

"A Bigger Splash" (1967): This iconic painting is part of Hockney's series depicting California swimming pools. It showcases his ability to capture light, space, and the essence of a scene with his distinctive style. "A Bigger Splash" has become one of Hockney's most recognizable and celebrated works.

"Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" (1972): This monumental painting combines elements of portraiture and landscape, featuring a figure standing on a poolside ledge while another swims below. It explores themes of longing, desire, and the complexities of human relationships. The painting's composition, scale, and emotional depth exemplify Hockney's mastery of form and storytelling.

"Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986" (1986): Created using a collage technique, this artwork presents a composite view of a California desert highway. Hockney assembled hundreds of photographs to capture multiple perspectives, highlighting his experimentation with photography and his interest in fragmented narratives.

"The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire" series (2011): In this body of work, Hockney explores the changing seasons and the beauty of nature in his native Yorkshire. These vibrant and expansive landscapes were created using a combination of traditional painting techniques and digital technology, showcasing Hockney's embrace of new artistic possibilities.

"82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life" (2016): This ambitious series consists of 82 portraits, each painted in Hockney's signature vibrant style. The collection reflects Hockney's fascination with the human face and his exploration of capturing the essence of the sitter through color and composition.

Throughout his career, David Hockney has continuously pushed artistic boundaries and embraced new technologies. From his early Pop Art influences to his exploration of digital art and iPad drawings, Hockney's artistic trajectory

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David Hockney – Exploring the Pop Art Works of Painter David Hockney

Avatar for Thembeka Heidi Sincuba

Having witnessed Abstract Expressionism, Conceptual, and Pop art, painter David Hockney is arguably Britain’s greatest living artist and undeniably the most popular artist in the world. Even before homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967, Hockney was a successful, openly gay, young artist. Since then, he has remained the golden boy of contemporary Western art.

Table of Contents

  • 1 David Hockney Makes a Splash
  • 2.1.1 The Hollywood Hills
  • 2.1.2 Double Portraits
  • 2.1.3 Secret Knowledge
  • 2.1.4 David Hockney Photography
  • 2.2.1 The English Countryside
  • 2.2.2 Normandy
  • 3 A Living Legend
  • 4 The Heart, the Hand, and the Eye
  • 5.1 Does David Hockney Do Still Lifes?
  • 5.2 Why Is David Hockney’s Painting Called A Bigger Splash?
  • 5.3 What’s Up with David Hockney and Smoking?

David Hockney Makes a Splash

9 July 1937
Bradford, United Kingdom
, Pop Art
Painting, Photography, Collage, Digital
Oil paint, watercolor, charcoal
Swimming pools, California, Los Angeles, luxury, homosexuality, Naturalism, space, portraiture, , Cubism

The most well-known David Hockney paintings and photographs have reflected a preoccupation with the city of Los Angeles. Through intimate portraits of the California elite and lavish landscapes of turquoise swimming pools and plush properties, he would one day become the most expensive living artist in the world.

He has never stopped drawing and experimenting with new artistic means.

A David Hockney Biography

The David Hockney biography began on the 9th of July 1937, in a Victorian city near London called Bradford. Bradford was green but industrial. Growing up, the beautiful countryside, which was a mixture of pastoral and wildland, was just a few miles away. As a child, he would walk there from his family home, and even then, he was captivated by the light of the sun and the gloomy gothic landscape.

His mother was a Methodist and very supportive of Hockney. His father was eccentric and had also studied art at night school in Bradford, but wound up doing odd jobs, including being a clerk in his final years. After the war, his father had tried his hand at upcycling secondhand bicycles. David Hockney remembers watching his father paint lines on the handlebars and falling in love with the gesture of painting.

The young Hockney was a bright student who was already interested in becoming an artist by the time he was in elementary school. At the age of 11, David was awarded a scholarship to study at the Bradford Grammar School.

David Hockney Biography

His parents wanted to make sure David had a good education. At 16, he enrolled at the Bradford School of Art. There he studied observational drawing and ignited his passion for painting. The David Hockney Self-Portrait (1953) shows the young Hockney with a mop of dark hair and thick-framed glasses. Even though he had not yet found his signature bleach blonde look, his image consciousness was already clear.

“Portrait of My Father” (1955) was David Hockney’s first oil painting. His father, who encouraged his son’s interest in art, had bought him an old canvas at a jumble sale. David painted over it and asked his father to pose for a new painting. His father agreed on the condition that he could set up a mirror system and watch the painting take shape. Hockney submitted this early installation of the David Hockney portraits to be exhibited at the Leeds Art Gallery, where he made his very first sale at 17 or 18 years old.

In 1957, Hockney graduated top of his class. When he was 18, he visited London for the first time. He took the train there and hitchhiked back. At the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, he discovered Modern painting from the likes of Picasso, which he had never seen in the museums and galleries of Yorkshire. He would continue hitchhiking to London and eventually leave Yorkshire at the age of 21.

Early Career

In 1959, the 22-year-old painter David Hockney was awarded another scholarship for the Royal College of Art in London. Though he was interested in Modern art, he was trained in drawing and academic painting, in which he excelled. In his first year at college, he saw a hair product advertisement on television that claimed blondes had more fun, and just like that, he became a lifelong blonde. Hockney would not be the artist he is today without the hard work and good times he had at the Royal College of Art.

By the 1960s, David Hockney’s paintings had departed from traditional academic painting and taken a new and more personal direction. He stopped painting figures from life and portrayed them more stylistically, as seen in “The Third Love Painting” (1960) and “Kaisarion” (1960).

Even as a student, he started to win awards, receive attention, and make a name for himself on the London art scene. Hockney first went to New York in 1961 when he was 24. He then traveled to Berlin, Rome, Florence, and Egypt.

His works began to explore his homosexuality, which was unprecedented in British art. “We Two Boys Together Clinging” (1961) was a cheeky declaration at a time when homosexuality was still criminal. The image demonstrates the artist’s foray into Abstract Expressionism. Here, Hockey experimented with lettering and words, which operated as figures.

The source material for Hockney’s early work were images of models from Physique , a fitness magazine subliminally marketed towards gay men. The term Pop Art was introduced by a British critic Lawrence Alloway in connection with a group of artists that Hockney was associated with.

David Hockney Paintings

Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style (1961) is another example of Hockney toying with Pop. He was looking at packaging and consumerism, conflating the famous British brand Typhoo Tea with odd imagery of a curious figure who appears to be steering the box. Hockney explored perspective and depth in his rendering of the box.

This is by no means Hockney’s best work, and he admits that in his strain to get the image right, he accidentally misspelled the word “tea”. Nonetheless, the object represents Hockney in a moment where he was eager to address the commercial world whilst indulging in a bit of nostalgia in using his mother’s favorite brand of tea. No other David Hockney artwork screams Pop Art the way Tea Painting does.

Hockney’s experiments with Abstract Expressionism, French Art Brute, and Pop Art would ultimately reroute him closer to home, where he was exposed to a dynamic group of artists including Peter Blake and Francis Bacon, who had briefly taught at the Royal College.

The Hollywood Hills

In 1964, as soon as Hockney graduated, he left London for California. Having watched Hollywood movies and pictures of palm trees in his childhood Hockney had a hunch that Los Angeles was the place for him. It was love at first sight. The move hugely impacted the 26-year-old’s career, who would become the seminal painter of Southern California.

He had enough money to live and paint for a year. At first, he thought he could cycle everywhere, but quickly realized he needed to get a driver’s license. Driving around in an open car through the Hollywood Hills, he got a sense of how big it was and began seriously observing the landscape for the very first time, which inspired a new kind of landscape painting.

The bright colors of sunny California made their way into his work instantly as he found new ways to depict water. He thought Los Angeles looked fresh, sexy, and sunny, and he appreciated the recognizability of the landscapes. He said he had not seen people painting pictures of Los Angeles and took it as a challenge.

Hockney’s practice took off in his Los Angeles studio, where he also took up polaroid photography depicting the environment and life in California. Swish landscapes and swimming pools became common motifs and Hockney began producing his famous Los Angeles paintings.

In California around 1978, David Hockney’s paintings started to have more loosely applied paint, similar to the Impressionists and reminiscent of van Gogh. By then, his use of color and application of paint had changed, as seen in Santa Monica Boulevard (1980), along with his understanding of perspective. He completed paintings of interiors inspired by modern Los Angeles homes such as Hollywood Hills House (1982). 

In addition to glass and mirrors, water is a recurring theme in Hockney’s work. These reflective surfaces fascinate him because they are hard to describe verbally and pictorially. They are also the simplest way to draw the eye, mimicking transparency on the surface of the painting.

David Hockney Artwork

A Bigger Splash (1967) is an iconic Hockney image and was made around April to June of 1967. It was painted from a photograph. The stillness of the photograph makes it unreal as the human eye cannot capture frozen time. The range of marks Hockney made were experiments towards evoking movement in the splash. While there is no figure, the pool, the sky, the palm trees, the director’s chair, and the yellow diving board are dramatized by the sign that someone has just jumped into the water.

During this period, Hockney became an international superstar.

He had been teaching at the University of UC Berkley when his art was heralded as refreshing and new in an era where American Abstraction was the status quo. His images contributed to the cool, minimalist California aesthetic. In 1976, he published his first monograph, David Hockney by David Hockney: My Early Years .

Double Portraits

Adhesiveness (1960) was his first attempt at a double portrait, which would become one of his characteristic genres. David Hockney said it was his first serious painting. He was interested in the relationship between his subjects, who were invariably attached as relatives, friends, or lovers. David Hockney’s portraits are mostly double portraits and revisit the conversation piece, which was an 18th century aesthetic, creating an interaction between figures. The strange distance is created through the figures’ relative occupied space.

One of the best-known David Hockney portraits, “Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy” (1970), is a double portrait. His subjects were his close friends Celia Burtwell and Ozzy Clark, who were a power couple in the swinging sixties of West London, Chelsea.

Ozzy was a fashion designer and Celia was a fabric designer. Though he represented them as a married couple, they were about to be divorced. Their bodies imply a polarity. Celia stands proudly in her dramatic dress and Ozzy is seated with the cat on his lap and a foot sinking into the shagpile carpet, indicating ease. 

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) depicts a life of privilege and freedom. Set in a house in Saint Tropez in the south of France, this is a painting. The two figures are good-looking; they live lives of luxury and leisure, yet the clothed observer, Hockney’s former partner Slazenger, stands on the edge of the pool in which a swimmer does the breaststroke, giving the painting a sense of psychological tension.

My Parents and Myself (1976) shows Hockey’s interest in the meta double portrait. This is actually a David Hockney self-portrait as he followed artists like Diego Velázquez, who used a mirror to incorporate a portrait of himself into his double portrait. The following year, a new double portrait of his parents, My Parents (1977), used the same technique but, instead of a reflection, he represented himself as a picture on the wall, through the 1976 double portrait of his parents My Parents and Myself (1976).

Another conspicuous David Hockney self-portrait is the meta double portrait “Looking at Pictures on a Screen” (1977), in which Hockney forces the viewer to view a painting of a person viewing a painting.

In Model with Unfinished Self Portrait (1977), the curtain creates the illusion that there is a space behind the model where the artist sits drawing, but the title tells us that the unfinished self-portrait of the artist working at the table is leaning against the studio wall while a model is posed sleeping on the couch in front of it. It is a painting within a painting.

Secret Knowledge

David Hockney has said the way in which images are made gives us more information about them. For him, the way an image is made is as important as why it was made. His book, Secret Knowledge (2001), is Hockney’s study in the use of optics in the works of the great masters. Western art has been dependent on optical devices for 400 years. Optical projections would have been used by artists over the long history of Western art.

Hockney debunked the misconception that cameras were invented in the 19th century.

Lenses developed in the 17th century, making it possible to make projections in the form of a camera obscura. Hockney did not invent these theories, but he has popularized them and placed them at the center of the art debate.

For David Hockney, photography is a means of transposing an image onto a flat surface. It is a chemical invention, while the camera is a precedent of this process.

There is no doubt that these artists used the concave mirror, nor is there a logical reason why artists would not use every tool available. The question then becomes about why artists are so secretive about their techniques. The answer is human nature. Artists may not want to share trade secrets with their competitors. Others may think that admitting to using such devices diminishes their reputation for skill or genius. 

David Hockney Photography

Hockney began tackling photography initially with polaroids. He realized the problem with photography was that the camera records the world from a single, static focal length and perspective, producing an unimaginative way of seeing the world. David Hockney’s photography wanted to challenge what he calls “the tyranny of vanishing point perspective”.

David Hockney’s photography is based on his interest in the differences between camera vision and human vision. To challenge the camera’s monocular vision, Hockney explored ways of seeing that shattered single-point perspective.

He wanted to depict the world from all its perspectives. He would do this by showing whole figures that feel quite close by positioning the camera at varying heights. He expanded the medium, using the photographs to create a collage and embracing the grid, which operates as frames or windows.

David Hockney Pop Art

In the 1980s, painter David Hockney took to using the photograph to dramatize the sense of space. The Grand Canyon is one of the largest landscapes in the world. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, one must look in even though there is no single focal point. As such, it is unphotographable and presented an interesting technical challenge. Hockney’s A Closer Grand Canyon (1998) is an interpretation of space and its edge at the Grand Canyon. His series of polaroids called joiners were photographed in bits to form a richer whole.

This resulted in his famous photomontage, Pearblossom Highway 11 – 18th April (Second Version) (1986). He had been commissioned by Vanity Fair and while he was driving in the Southwest, he found a subject on Pearblossom highway. Pearblossom Highway is a collage designed to mimic the subjective, Cubist experience of space.

One of the key elements in the making of this piece was a ladder that allowed Hockney to photograph the different elements from different points of view. The lettering on the road was shot from a ladder looking down. The stop sign was shot from a ladder but from eye level. His process involved moving all over to achieve various viewpoints and vanishing points.

Hockney’s contribution to the problems of photography and the age-old issues of transforming a lived experience onto a two-dimensional surface has been applauded. Even though they were made with photographic equipment and techniques, Hockney’s photographs pertained more to the world of painting.

David Hockney has always embraced new technologies, including photography, collage, photocopying, faxes, and eventually image software such as Paintbox and Photoshop. David Hockney’s artwork switches between any available styles or media that allow for autographic expression. He is aware of the implications of new media and thinks they have revolutionary potential.

In 2009, he began working on his iPhone and later with a stylus on his iPad. The device increased his drawing output.

He has always drawn, but since he always has his iPad on hand, he can complete artworks quicker than with any other medium. Using this new medium, Hockney has produced numerous landscapes and portraits, including Untitled no. 2 (2010).

He realized that on the iPad, he could establish colors quicker and was seduced by the special effect of the luminous screen of the device. Hockney has found this feature useful for achieving luminous subjects and subtle ranges of color. The iPad offers him tools that would be impossible if he had been restricted to pen and paper.

Mature Work

Nature has become an increasingly dominant motif of David Hockney’s artwork. Compelled by the beauty of his surroundings, Hockney has always done landscapes. His thoroughly Anglo-American works are the perfect blend of extravagant color and measured restraint. In 1997, Hockney spent six months in Yorkshire to be close to his old friend Jonathan, who was terminally ill. Jonathan suggested that Hockney spend his time painting his native Yorkshire and Hockney obliged.

His vivid landscapes of somber Yorkshire, such as “Yorkshire Fields, North Yorkshire” (1997), were possible of his Americanized color pallet.

When Hockney began the Yorkshire paintings, their scale was meant to mimic that of the landscape. Because the original studio he had was very small, the paintings were made outside. Each painting consisted of six big canvases that would be assembled to make one whole. This was a logistical decision as these broken-up canvases were easier to transport. He even devised a method of painting very big surfaces without the use of ladders. While he is well-known for these large-scale paintings, he is also capable of working on a small scale.

At the beginning of the new millennium, Hockney embraced watercolor, returning to favored subject matter such as portraits, still lifes, his dogs, interiors, and landscapes. Hockney’s process revisits nostalgic, traditional themes and techniques.

He often painted en Plein air . Depicting a bunch of trees near a body of water, Bigger Trees (2007) is one of the more popular images from this period. Consisting of ten panels and measuring four and a half meters by twelve, Bigger Trees is Hockney’s biggest en Plein air painting.

The English Countryside

David Hockney’s artwork is apolitical, but no one can deny that Hockney loves England. He has always returned to Yorkshire where his mother lived, and he spent many Christmases in East Yorkshire, Bridlington even while he was living abroad. Thus, his eventual return to England seemed like a logical move that spoke to what mattered to him and his practice right at the time. In 2008, Hockney moved into his Bridlington studio. This was his largest ever studio and it allowed him to work on a massive scale.

Hockney has known the Yorkshire landscape all his life so, from 2010 onwards, he began experimenting with new ways of depicting it.

Working with film, his team in Bridlington produced digital photography landscapes using new advanced cameras. The Jugglers (2012) , which could be called a Cubist video, depicts a large space in which each frame represents a separate moment. The multi-camera video work is evocative of the multipaneled paintings, allowing Hockney to make the photographic image operate more like reality.

To experiment further with depicting the vastness of space and the tallness of trees, Hockney returned to the canvas. Because he was interested in capturing nature at different times of the year, David Hockney’s paintings resumed working from observation.

The Waltagate Woods, where some of the most exciting works of this period were made, show extraordinary color. He could complete a panel within a day or two and produced about nine full-scale paintings a year. He took advantage of natural effects like mist. He worked fast and when the mist was gone, he figured out how to commit it to memory. Through oil paint, he layered time, illuminating it for the viewer. Hockney’s time spent in these woods was also a revelation of the complex quality of the landscape.

After living in London, Los Angeles, Paris, and Bridlington, the artist was taken by the French Normandy. This is where he currently lives and works. A gallery owner, friend, and now-neighbor had suggested this quaint place and Hockney warmed to the tranquility of Normandy.

Since 2019, the painter has devoted himself to representing the northern French landscape, along with its textures, colors, and natural transitions.

The work he created during the period was on show at Paris’ Erengere Museum. Part of it was inspired by Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (1840–1926), which are housed in the Musee de Lengereie in Paris, the same building that’s now exhibiting his Frieze (2020-2021), which measures 90 meters long and one meter high.

Like Monet before him, the passage of the seasons seems to be what currently pre-occupies Hockney. The artist has spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic in Normandy.

He still wakes up early in the morning and has maintained his work ethic. In the 1960s, it might have taken Hockney months to complete one painting. After a lifetime of experience, his process has become swifter and more refined, and he has become more productive than ever.

A Living Legend

David Hockney biography boasts a glittering career. For over seven decades, the art world has kept him in its warm embrace. He was world-renowned since he was a student and went on to have exhibitions in major museums across the world, which were blockbuster media events with paintings amongst the most expensive of any living artist.

People who meet Hockney find him delightful, eloquent, and always willing to discuss his work with his adoring audiences.

His works are currently being canonized in major retrospectives, such as that at the Los Angeles County Museum in 1988. This was his first and surveyed 20 years of work, including 250 pieces in various forms.

In 2017, he received a major retrospective that traveled from the Tate in London to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and then finally to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The large retrospective spanned six decades, starting with Hockney’s student works to the California swimming pools, the Yorkshire Landscapes, and his latest iPad drawings.

In 2018, one of Hockney’s most famous paintings, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” (1972), went up for auction at Christie’s in New York. It became the most expensive artwork by a living artist, momentarily usurping Jeff Koons. The painting was purchased for a dizzying $90 million.

The Heart, the Hand, and the Eye

The painter David Hockney has an oeuvre that strikes a chord because he weaves his persona into the life of a painting. The David Hockney biography may be rooted in the mundane dreariness of post-war Britain, but it is colored by his sexy, tropical life in Los Angeles. Whether it was the Yorkshire countryside or the Normandy blossoms, Hockney never pinned himself to one movement, style, or place. Indeed, his work has defiantly escaped categorization within ongoing art movements and trends, which is what makes them shine.

Hockney often uses a Chinese saying: “In painting, you need three things: the hand, the heart, and the eye.” At 74 years old, all three seem to be in perfect working order. Hockney is clearer about the kind of work he still wants to produce and has become increasingly prolific. He continues evolving and responding to his immediate surroundings, keeping himself on his toes. This is a man who loves to draw and is not keen on slowing down.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does david hockney do still lifes.

Besides favorite subjects like his friends and dogs, David Hockney’s artwork includes still lifes and daily objects like ashtrays, glasses, and spectacles. At a time, he was particularly interested in the very near object.

Why Is David Hockney’s Painting Called A Bigger Splash ?

A Bigger Splash (1967) is so named because it is the first of a series of three paintings. A Little Splash (1966), Splash (1966), and A Bigger Splash (1967). The titles are used to describe the size of the painting rather than the actual splash.

What’s Up with David Hockney and Smoking?

David Hockney is famous for publicly defending his right to smoke, and criticizing what he calls the health police.

Heidi Sincuba

Heidi Sincuba was the Head of Painting at Rhodes University from 2017 to 2020 and part of the first Artist Run Practice and Theory course at Konstfack in Stockholm, 2021. They completed their BFA at Artez Arnhem in the Netherlands, MFA at Goldsmiths University of London, and are currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cape Town.

Heidi Sincuba’s own practice explores fugitivity through painting, drawing, text, textiles, performance, and installation. This praxis is founded on a conceptual intersection of biomythographic experimentation, existential automatism, and African ancestral knowledge systems. These methodologies of multiplicity result in a fluid and speculative aesthetic, continually manifesting and metamorphosing its material conditions.

Learn more about the Art in Context Team .

Cite this Article

Thembeka Heidi, Sincuba, “David Hockney – Exploring the Pop Art Works of Painter David Hockney.” Art in Context. April 1, 2022. URL: https://artincontext.org/david-hockney/

Sincuba, T. (2022, 1 April). David Hockney – Exploring the Pop Art Works of Painter David Hockney. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/david-hockney/

Sincuba, Thembeka Heidi. “David Hockney – Exploring the Pop Art Works of Painter David Hockney.” Art in Context , April 1, 2022. https://artincontext.org/david-hockney/ .

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david hockney biography


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David Hockney

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David Hockney

English painter , printmaker , photographer , and stage designer . Perhaps the most popular and versatile British artist of the 20th century, Hockney made apparent his facility as a draughtsman while studying at Bradford School of Art between 1953 and 1957, producing portraits and observations of his surroundings under the influence of the Euston Road School and of Stanley Spencer. From 1957 to 1959 he worked in hospitals as a conscientious objector to fulfil the requirements of national service. On beginning a three-year postgraduate course at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1959, he turned first to the discipline of drawing from life in two elaborate studies of a skeleton before working briefly in an abstract idiom inspired by the paintings of Alan Davie.

Encouraged by a fellow student, R. B. Kitaj, Hockney soon sought ways of reintegrating a personal subject-matter into his art while remaining faithful to his newly acquired modernism. He began tentatively by copying fragments of poems on to his paintings, encouraging a close scrutiny of the surface and creating a specific identity for the painted marks through the alliance of word and image. These cryptic messages soon gave way to open declarations in a series of paintings produced in 1960–61 on the theme of homosexual love, for example We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961; London, ACE), which took its title and some of its written passages from a poem by Walt Whitman. The audacity of the subject-matter was matched by the sophisticated but impetuous mixture of elevated emotions with low life, of crudely drawn figures reminiscent of child art with the scrawled appearance of graffiti, and a rough textural handling of paint. These pictures owed much to the faux-naïf idiom of Jean Dubuffet and to the example of Picasso, whose retrospective at the Tate Gallery in the summer of 1960 had a decisive impact on Hockney’s free-ranging attitude to style. Early in 1962 he exhibited a group of paintings under the generic title Demonstrations of Versatility (priv. col.; see Livingstone, pls 24–5, 36), each proposing a different style chosen at will: flat, illusionistic, scenic. The force of Hockney’s personality and humour, together with his commanding draughtsmanship and with subjects drawn from his own experience and literary interests, enabled him to transcend his influences and to establish a clear artistic identity at an early age. He was awarded the Royal College of Art gold medal for his year in 1962.

Hockney’s subsequent development was a continuation of his student work, which was initially regarded by critics as part of the wave of Pop art that emanated from the Royal College of Art, although a significant change in his approach occurred after his move to California at the end of 1963. Even before moving there he had painted Domestic Scene, Los Angeles (1963; priv. col.; see fig. ), an image of two men in a shower based partly on photographs found in a homosexual magazine. It is clear that when he moved to that city it was, at least in part, in search of the fantasy that he had formed of a sensual and uninhibited life of athletic young men, swimming pools, palm trees, and perpetual sunshine. Undoubtedly Hockney’s popularity can be attributed not simply to his visual wit and panache but also to this appeal to our own escapist instincts.

On his arrival in California, Hockney changed from oil to acrylic paints, applying them as a smooth surface of flat and brilliant colour that helped to emphasize the pre-eminence of the image. The anonymous, uninflected surface of works such as Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool (1966; Liverpool, Walker A.G.) also suggests the snapshot photographs on which they were partly based. The border of bare canvas surrounding the image reinforces this association, allowing Hockney to return to a more traditional conception of space while maintaining a modernist stance in the suggestion of a picture of a picture. By the end of the decade Hockney’s anxieties about appearing modern had abated to the extent that he was able to pare away the devices and to allow his naturalistic rendering of the world to speak for itself. He was particularly successful in a series of double portraits of friends, for example Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970–71; London, Tate), later voted the most popular modern painting in the Tate Gallery. While some of the paintings of this period appear stilted and lifeless in their reliance on photographic sources, Hockney excelled in his drawings from life, particularly in the pen-and-ink portraits executed in a restrained and elegant line, for example Nick and Henry on Board, Nice to Calvi (1972; London, BM). It is as a draughtsman and graphic artist that Hockney’s reputation is most secure.

Hockney’s originality as a printmaker was apparent by the time he produced A Rake’s Progress (1961–3; see 1979 exh. cat., nos 17–32), a series of 16 etchings conceived as a contemporary and autobiographical version of William Hogarth’s visual narrative. Hockney’s large body of graphic work, concentrating on etching and lithography, in itself assured him an important place in modern British art, and in series inspired by literary sources such as Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy (1967), Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (1969; see 1979 exh. cat., nos 70–108), and The Blue Guitar (1977; see 1979 exh. cat., nos 199–218), he did much to revive the tradition of the livre d’artiste .

Hockney’s work for the stage since 1975 brought out his essential inventiveness and helped free him of the ultimately stultifying constraints of his naturalistic mode. His most notable designs included productions at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in 1975 ( see [not available online]) and of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in 1978, and at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges , as well as other French works in 1980 and a Stravinsky triple-bill in 1981. These were followed by other ambitious designs, for example for Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Los Angeles Music Center Opera in 1987, for Puccini’s Turandot at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1992, and for Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1992. The example of Picasso, especially after his death in 1973, was also an important factor in Hockney’s return to the stylistic gamesmanship that distinguished him as a student. His obsessiveness, energy, and curiosity resulted in large bodies of work in different media, including the Paper Pools and other pulped paper works of 1978, as well as experiments with polaroid and 35 mm photography: several hundred composite images in which he applied the multiple viewpoints of Cubist painting to a mechanical medium. These experiments were part of a continuing fascination with technology that led him to produce ‘home made prints’ on photocopiers in 1986 and later images conveyed by fax machine or devised on a computer. The photographs also directed his attention to theories on perspective in large panoramic paintings that combine direct observation with memory as a means of suggesting movement through space, for example A Visit with Christopher and Don, Santa Monica Canyon (1984; artist’s col., see Livingstone, 2/1987, pp. 230–31), a painting on two canvases measuring 1.83×6.1 m overall. His restless desire for innovation was vividly manifested in the series of Very New Paintings (see 1994 exh. cat., pp. 140–43) initiated in 1992, in which he gave almost abstract form to his experience of the Pacific coastline and the Santa Monica mountains as an intoxicating succession of plunging perspectives, dazzling views, brilliant light, and intense colour. Hockney’s identification with Picasso, Matisse, and other modern masters has been viewed with suspicion by those who think his motives cynical and self-promoting. Such an interpretation, however, seems foreign to an artist whose ambition was consistently to claim for his work a range and openness rare for his generation.

Chilvers, Ian . "Hockney, David." The Oxford Companion to Western Art . Ed. Hugh Brigstocke . Oxford Art Online . Oxford University Press . Web . 5 Oct. 2015. < http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e1214 > .

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David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012

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Christopher Simon Sykes

David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 11, 2014

In this fascinating and entertaining second volume, Christopher Simon Sykes explores the life and work of Britain's most popular living artist.   David Hockney is one of the most influential and best-loved artists of the twentieth century. His career has spanned and epitomized the art movements of the past five decades. Picking up Hockney's story in 1975, this book finds him flitting between Notting Hill and California, where he took inspiration for the swimming pool series of paintings; creating acclaimed set designs for operas around the world; and embracing emerging technologies—the Polaroid camera and fax machine in the seventies and eighties and, most recently, the iPad. Hockney's boundless energy extends to his personal life too, and this volume illuminates the glamorous circles he moves in, as well as his sometimes turbulent relationships. Christopher Simon Sykes has been granted exclusive and unprecedented access to Hockney's paintings, notebooks, and diaries, and a great number of them are reproduced here. Featuring interviews with family, friends, and Hockney himself, this is a lively and revelatory account of an acclaimed artist and an extraordinary man.

  • Print length 448 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Nan A. Talese
  • Publication date November 11, 2014
  • Dimensions 7.11 x 1.58 x 9.52 inches
  • ISBN-10 0385535902
  • ISBN-13 978-0385535908
  • See all details

Editorial Reviews

"The Hockney who emerges from Sykes’s biography is far from an average artist. Relentlessly curious, ambitious and irreverent, he never rests on any laurels nor stays in one place for very long." — Washington Post "Chapter by chapter, the book unfolds as a series of love affairs, in which the workaholic artist falls madly in love with a new art-making medium — fax machines, Polaroids and iPads, to name a few — puzzles over its problems and potential, masters it and moves on ... Sykes has an engaging style and an enviable ability to write clearly about art." —Associated Press "Drawing on interviews with Hockney, his siblings, and colleagues; Hockey's autobiography; and diaries of famous friends, such as Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender, Sykes matches his subject's ebullience in this admiring, well-researched life." — Kirkus Reviews "Sykes continues his meticulously detailed, multivolume biography of the ever-replenishing font of creativity that is artist David Hockney ... Sykes articulates all the verve, ingenuity, and complex struggles involved in the protean Hockney’s deep inquiry into the nature of perception while also illuminating his influences, from his 'great hero,' Picasso, to Ingres, Thomas Moran, and Chinese scrolls, and recounting his eager embrace of new technologies and the resultant complex photo collages, sumptuous iPad drawings, and stunning, high definition videos." — Booklist

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nan A. Talese; Illustrated edition (November 11, 2014)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 448 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0385535902
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0385535908
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.15 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7.11 x 1.58 x 9.52 inches
  • #585 in Dancer Biographies
  • #2,909 in Biographies of People with Disabilities (Books)
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david hockney biography


David Hockney – Artwork & Bio of the British Painter

David Hockney is a British painter born on 9 July 1937 in Bradford, England. Hockney began his art education at the Bradford School of Art in 1953, studying there for four years under Frank Lisle. He furthered his education at the Royal College of Art from 1959 to 1962. Hockney’s abilities shone at the college, winning a gold medal and the Guinness Award for Etching during that period.

While at the academy, Hockney’s works were exhibited at the 1961 Young Contemporaries exhibition, catching the attention of art dealer John Kasmin. Two years later, Hockney held his first solo exhibition at the Kasmin Gallery in London. In 1964, Hockney moved to Los Angeles, where he painted a series of artworks in acrylic. He spent the next decade living between Paris, London, and Los Angeles.

In 1978, Hockney acquired a property in Hollywood Hills, which included his studio. Hockney won several awards and prizes, such as the Lorenzo de’Medici Lifetime Career Award and the Royal Academician election in 1991. He held successful shows at the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Art. Hockney received the Order of Merit award in 2012 and is still actively involved in art.

What is David Hockney Known For?

David Hockney is known for painting portraits and landscapes and experimenting with printmaking and stage design. Hockney is most renowned for his double portrait paintings of his relatives and loved ones. Of all of Hockney’s works, his Plein air landscapes won the most acclaim. In his illustrious career, Hockney participated in almost a thousand group and solo exhibitions.

What Art Movement is David Hockney Associated With?

David Hockney is associated with the Impressionism and Realism art movements.

David Hockney Artwork

Below are some of the artworks of David Hockney

A Bigger Splash

Cardigan road, bridlington, celia with a green hat, celia with chair, dancing flowers, hockney’s alphabet, in front of house looking north, mr and mrs clark and percy, pool made with paper and blue ink for book, red, blue, and wicker, the arrival of spring in woldgate, the third love painting, all david hockney artwork on artchive.

Artwork Name Year Medium
1964 Acrylic on Canvas
1961 Oil On Canvas
1965 Acrylic On Canvas
1970 Acrylic On Canvas
1977 Oil on Canvas
1967 Acrylic on Canvas
1966 Acrylic on Canvas
1980 Acrylic on Canvas
1972 Acrylic on Canvas
1971-72 Acrylic on Canvas
1985 Oil on Canvas
1970 Acrylic on Canvas
1971 Acrylic on Canvas
1967 Acrylic on Canvas
1966 Acrylic on two Canvases

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‘It's stuck with me all my life’: David Hockney on Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ

Ahead of an exhibition at the national gallery in london that will pair two of his works with the renaissance masterpiece, hockney talks about what makes the work so special.

david hockney biography

Left: David Hockney standing beside his painting My Parents (1977), in the same year that he created it, with Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ (around 1437–45) depicted in the mirror. My Parents: © David Hockney. Photo: Bern Schwartz

Right: A full view of The Baptism of Christ , housed in the National Gallery in London’s collection © The National Gallery, London

Despite being a resolutely modern artist, David Hockney is well known for his love of the past. For more than 60 years, he has engaged, in particular, with the Old Masters, drawing on and closely analysing many of their works.

Examples range from his re-imagination of William Hogarth’s series A Rake’s Progress , which Hockney worked on from 1961 to 1963, to his homages to Michelangelo and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. In 2001, meanwhile, he published his book Secret Knowledge, in which he argued that many leading Old Masters adopted optical devices such as mirrors and lenses to create their masterpieces—a proposition that brought much attention at the time. Such has the influence of historical art been on his own explorations of colour and composition that he has been posited, in the words of The Guardian ’s Jonathan Jones, as a “living old master”.

An artist who has fascinated Hockney since he was a child is the Italian Renaissance painter Piero della Franscesca, known for his pioneering handling of perspective and emotion within his subjects. Piero’s The Baptism of Christ (around 1437-45) has appeared in two of Hockney‘s works: My Parents (1977), a double portrait of his mother and father, and Looking at Pictures on a Screen (1977), a painting of the curator Henry Geldzahler gazing at posters on a folding screen.

As part of the celebrations marking its 200th anniversary, the National Gallery is bringing these two works together with The Baptism of Christ in an exhibition titled Hockney and Piero: A Longer Look . The mission is to highlight the connections between the two artists, promote the act of “slow looking”—a concept close to Hockney’s heart—and, according to the show’s curator Susanna Avery-Quash, “encourage reflection on the National Gallery’s history of connecting people with pictures”.

In advance of the opening, Avery-Quash spoke to Hockney about his experiences of The Baptism of Christ and what makes it such a “fantastic construction”. The conversation took place in front of the painting.

Susanna Avery-Quash: Do you remember the first time you encountered Piero della Francesca's The Baptism of Christ ?

David Hockney: It was about 1955, when I first came to London, and we came to the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Gallery, just to look at pictures. This one I've always remembered. I had a little book about Piero that was given to me for a Sketchbook Prize, and there was one colour reproduction—this one [Hockney points to Piero’s Baptism ]. All the rest were black and white. It cost three and sixpence and it was about that big [Hockney indicates the shape of the book]. I kept the book with me for a long time. I'm sure I've still got it somewhere.

What was your reaction when you first stood in front of the original?

Well, I thought it was the most beautiful painting I’d ever seen. It’s painted with egg tempera isn’t it, on wood?

david hockney biography

David Hockney at a press showing of the Artist's Eye exhibition at National Gallery (June 1981), which he curated using works from the institution’s collection © Photo: Robert Workman. From the Robert Workman Archive, Bishopsgate

Yes, that's right; the wood’s Italian poplar.

Its use of shadows isn't that strong. I like that. I mean, the shadows on the figures are just quite light, aren't they?

And I like the little pathway going up the hill.

Yes, I know that you love that detail. In fact, you had the pathway going up the hillside reproduced as a postcard, together with another postcard showing the whole image, and included both at the back of your exhibition catalogue, Looking at Pictures in a Book , which accompanied your Artist’s Eye exhibition at the National Gallery in 1981.

And that bird...

Yes, the dove representing the Holy Spirit.

Yes, it's hovering. It's not flying. It's hovering over Christ, isn't it? Because you can tell if birds are flying even in a two-dimensional picture. But oh, I thought, the whole picture had such a clarity. I was very, very impressed with it—very!

david hockney biography

David Hockney first saw Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ on a visit to London in 1955. His mother kept a reproduction of it in her bedroom

© The National Gallery, London

There are certainly elements that you've been particularly struck by and taken on in artistic dialogue with your own work.

Yes, but when I first saw it face to face, I was just 18 years old then.

And Piero’s Baptism has stuck with you ever since.

It's stuck with me all my life. It's a fantastic picture, and it's painted beautifully.

david hockney biography

David Hockney My Parents (1977)

© David Hockney. Photo: Tate, London

You have sometimes included, in your paintings, pairs of figures, one depicted side-on and the other facing the viewer [as in My Parents or Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott ]. That recalls the placing of the figures of Christ and John the Baptist in The Baptism . Repurposing that compositional device points to your deep engagement with Piero.

Yes, and I also remember the quite modern underwear.

Exactly! The figure just disrobing in the background looks like he's got a sort of pair of y-fronts on.

Yes, it looks like y-fronts!

A lot of modern artists have commented on that memorable disrobing figure. They found it so relatable: the action of taking off the shirt and the fact that you can't see the head, just the y-fronts!

You’ve always had reproductions of Piero’s Baptism, not only in books but as postcards and posters in your studio in London and elsewhere, haven't you? And you said your mother had a reproduction of it in her bedroom for many years.

Yes, I gave her it and she had it in her bedroom all her life.

You’ve always said about reproductions that they're wonderful because you can have them at your bedside and look at them last thing before you to bed. And you can look at them when you get up in the morning. You don't have to come to the National Gallery, although, obviously, seeing the original is more amazing than looking at any reproduction.

Well, I said sometimes reproductions give off vibes and I'm sure I bought a postcard of the Piero. In those days the postcard section was quite small, wasn't it?

Yes, there was certainly a more limited choice in the 1950s than we have today.

So, you had a postcard of Piero’s Baptism at home as a little aide memoire , as they say. And of course, you also had a bigger version in the form of the poster that you depicted, taped on the screen alongside three other posters of National Gallery paintings, in Looking at Pictures on a Screen .

I painted Henry [Geldzahler] looking at them—because he had a very good eye.

david hockney biography

David Hockney, Looking at Pictures on a Screen (1977)

© David Hockney

And did he like the Piero painting?

Oh yes, you could not not like it, could you? Anybody who constructs pictures at all is going to love it because it's a fantastic construction.

Yes, there’s a real sense of monumentality.

And the red, white and blue is marvellous isn’t it? The grey.

I've also always aimed in my figurative pictures for that sort of clarity. There was a reproduction of Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation in a corridor at Bradford Grammar School which I’ve known since I was 11. And I always thought it was the best picture they had there.

‘I’m also attracted to the clarity in Piero’s Baptism . Everything is seen: no dark shadows covering things up.

david hockney biography

Hockney included The Baptism of Christ in The Artist‘s Eye , an exhibition he curated at London‘s National Gallery in 1981. For the poster promoting the show,, he remade Looking at Pictures on a Screen —inserting himself in curator Henry Geldzahler’s place

The National Gallery Archive © David Hockney. Photo: The National Gallery, London

Indeed! I remember you used in your Artist’s Eye exhibition catalogue a quote from George Herbert’s poem Elixir about how we tend to see things through a glass darkly but with inspiration or illumination, we get to see things properly. This idea of clarity of vision has fascinated you—that if we get beyond the surface of things, we can hope to reach a clearer understanding of the truth about something.

A man that looks on glass... [David Hockney joins in with Susanna Avery-Quash and they recite together]

A man that looks on glasse, On it may stay his eye;

Or if he pleaseth, through it passe, And then the heav'n espie. I always liked that. That was a hymn we used to sing at Bradford Grammar School.

Its message is definitely appropriate for an artist in the making!

And I always thought it was a marvellous hymn because it began in such an unusual way.

Well, it's your motto, isn't it? Really close, deep, sustained looking. And then, more looking!

Piero’s Baptism is very, very, beautiful. And how old is it now? Five hundred...

Yes, 600 years old. It was painted probably about the 1440s. And it still speaks to us.

Yes, it does!

It's gone with you throughout your life, as a friend.

Yes, I've never fallen out with it. Never.

No, it's never fallen out with you. Because it feels as though the centuries since it was made have concertinaed up into nothing, and that your relationship with Piero is fresh and alive.

I remember thinking when I first came in the National Gallery, this was one of their great gems. All the pictures are good. But this one was a real gem. I've always remembered it. I could draw it without looking up: the tree trunk, and the shadow you see on it is just subtle. All the shadows are very subtle, aren't they?

Well, Piero’s wonderful Baptism is going to feature in the National Gallery’s bicentenary exhibition, Hockney and Piero: A Longer Look , in August 2024. We’re going to put the Piero in the centre, with your painting My Parents on one side of it and with your painting Looking at Pictures on a Screen on the other. Because then we’ll have created the most amazing kind of triptych.

Do you know, I did another version [of My Parents ]? In the National Portrait Gallery exhibition [in 2023], they had the other version of my painting.

Your Parents with you, yes, or, to use its title, My Parents and Me .

Of “me” because I was looking in the mirror. But in the one that you'll have, Piero’s Baptism is reflected in the mirror.

Exactly. The substitution of Piero’s Baptism for your likeness in the later painting underscores the deep bond you feel with Piero and the connections between his art and yours. Your two paintings, My Parents and Looking at Pictures on a Screen, witness to your lifelong relationship with Piero because in both you reproduced his Baptism .

And they have a bit of Fra Angelico too with the…

...with the drape you also see in the mirror, exactly.

Yes, I put the drape in My Parents .

Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about Piero’s Baptism. It really means a huge amount to me that we could have this lovely chat about our favourite painting.

  • This is an edited extract from an interview that took place on 7 February 2024. David Hockney has been back in the UK since July 2023
  • Hockney and Piero: A Longer Look is on view at the National Gallery, London, from 8 August to 27 October

david hockney biography

David Hockney

British, b. 1937.

A pioneer of the 1960s British movement, David Hockney is one of the most celebrated and prolific artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Endlessly versatile, he has produced acrylic paintings, photo collages , full-scale opera set designs, and …

david hockney biography

david hockney biography

My tour of Shanghai’s ‘very gay’ art scene with Russell Tovey, Talk Art podcast host

  • While art hopping in Shanghai and curating a David Hockney show, podcaster and LGBTQ icon Russell Tovey promotes dialogue and understanding

It is June 18 and the start of the monsoon season in Shanghai. I find myself crammed inside a taxi crawling through traffic from the Pudong district to trendy Anfu Road. I glance at my fellow passenger, the British film star and podcast host Russell Tovey. This is not your everyday cab ride.

I am crackling with excitement as I prepare to whisk him off along with a few friends on a whirlwind art-hopping adventure through Shanghai. It is Tovey’s first time in mainland China (he went to Hong Kong 20 years ago) and I decide to give him a tour of the vibrant local art scene.

The actor, who is gay and out, first came to fame two decades ago as a star in the original cast of both the stage and film versions of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys .

In China he has garnered a loyal following, especially through his portrayal of a werewolf in the BBC series Being Human (2008-12). In Mandarin, he is affectionately known as Xiaolang (Little Wolf).

david hockney biography

“It’s very clean and futuristic,” he says of his first impression of Pudong, as we are stuck in traffic.

david hockney biography

A few hours earlier, Tovey was at the opening of “David Hockney: Paper Trails”, an exhibition he co-curated at the Shanghai Modern Art Museum (MAM).

As Shai Baitel, artistic director of MAM, explains, the medium is “central to Hockney’s practice”, as it allowed him to experiment and develop ideas before translating them into larger works.

While the sheer volume – over 100 works – and breadth of the art on display is a compelling reason to visit the exhibition, the show has a deeper significance, combining as it does the work of a world-famous queer artist and a celebrity queer curator and opening in Pride Month; this is particularly significant in a city where queer identity and queer art remain largely hidden.

The Shanghai art scene is very, very gay – but carefully so

Hockney came of age when homosexuality was still criminalised in Britain. Despite societal restrictions, he desired to live openly as a gay man. His art became a powerful tool for self-expression, and a protest against the restrictive social climate.

For example, one of the works on show features a sailor staring provocatively at the viewer. While Matelot Kevin Druez 2 (2009) is not as explicitly about gay life as, say, his Peter Getting out of Nick’s Pool (1966), it can be seen as a coded depiction of desire that still needs to be disguised in many cultures.

“Generally, his portraits are about love that we can all connect to,” Tovey says.

david hockney biography

As our cab crawls through the former French Concession, and we observe the ongoing transformation of Shanghai’s cityscape, Tovey’s curiosity turns towards the city’s LGBTQ art scene. My friend along for the ride, Shanghai art writer and fellow Post contributor Lisa Movius, is able to fill him in.

Movius describes the raucous closing party of Shanghai lesbian bar Roxie just two nights earlier – the latest blow in a shrinking of gay public spaces in China.

“It stems more from growing official discomfort with independent, grass-roots communities than conservative sexual mores,” Movius explains.

“The Shanghai art scene is very, very gay – but carefully so,” she tells Tovey. “Shanghai’s glitz is a gay magnet for the rest of China, as well as a respite from Beijing’s dominant cis-heteronormative machismo. Many artists plus museum, gallery and art fair owners, directors and staff here are openly but quietly queer.”

Some reflect that in their projects, while others keep their personal identities more private.

“Publicly, most China exhibitions ‘straightwash’ LGBTQ+ artists, often far more than they actually need to. A few brave venues (Movius says it is not safe to openly identify them) “proactively include queer artists and content and manage to push into the censorship grey area with subtle winks of meaning and workarounds, like different local and overseas press releases.

“There is a lot happening here, but you have to know where to look.”

At last, we reach our destination. The sky is darkening, yet Anfu Road remains as vibrant as ever.

Their courage in advocating for the LGBTQ community during less accepting times paved the way for greater acceptance today

Capsule Shanghai, established by Italian gallerist Enrico Polato, has consistently championed LGBTQ artists in China. Operating discreetly, the gallery hosts numerous gay-themed exhibitions that showcase emerging talent.

The current solo exhibition, “Revisit”, features the work of Los Angeles-based Chinese artist Yan Xinyue. One of the paintings catches Tovey’s eye – a depiction of the artist wearing an LED-light facial mask while lying on the floor.

Tovey jokes: “I also wore a mask like this during lockdown; it helps with the wrinkles.”

The gay community in Shanghai knows when to be subtle and when to scream. While there is no public Pride celebration in Shanghai this June, the opening reception of the Hockney show soon turns into a de facto Pride party.

Charles Ren, a consultant and a young patron of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, points out at the party that the artist’s biography in China often omits Hockney’s involvement in the Aids crisis and mention of his sexuality.

david hockney biography

He says he hopes Tovey’s involvement in curating the exhibition will help attract a larger audience and promote discussion and perhaps more understanding in a city where there is little chance of it happening publicly.

As a long-time fan of Tovey since his university days, he proudly shows me a photograph taken with the actor outside a Broadway theatre in New York in 2013.

Ren says both Hockney and Tovey profoundly influenced him as he navigated his own identity: “Their courage in advocating for the LGBTQ community during less accepting times paved the way for greater acceptance today.”

Tovey, who tells me he never expected to be that well received in China, says he is glad to be able to use his influence to help people through his work and art.

“The more people that tell you, ‘Hey this is for you, you can enjoy this as much as I enjoy it,’ that’s a brilliant message [that can help people] find the people who are out, talking about their lives and showing you what it is to live authentically, so you can find inspirational bravery from them.”

“David Hockney: Paper Trails”, Modern Art Museum, 4777 Binjiang Avenue, Pudong New Area, Shanghai. Until September 10.

  • 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life

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