David Hockney is a British painter , photographer, printmaker, stage designer and draftsman. His artworks over the past seven decades include paintings of swimming pools, dynamic landscapes and intimate portraits. His art boldly informs his rank in society. He implements his homosexuality, family and friends in his art and is explicitly shaped by the changing environment around him. He has stayed at various places and owns homes across Los Angeles, Yorkshire and Normandy. 

However, David Hockney did not clinch himself to one style of art or movement. In fact, his artworks are so distinctive and invigorating that it would be difficult to label his works under one style or any ongoing trends.

Life of an Artist: David Hockney - Sheet1
David Hockney_©Anna Randal

Life  

Born on 9 th July 1937 in Bradford, United Kingdom, young David Hockney was a sharp elementary student and showed a keen interest in creativity, which earned him a scholarship at Bradford Grammar School in 1948. Hockey had already decided at the age of 11 to be an artist. Consequently, every passing day he showed more interest in learning the arts. His parents even arranged private calligraphy lessons to support his interests. When he went to Bradford School of Art, he themed his art around “observation drawing” and discovered that painting was his true ardour. He graduated with a first-class diploma with honours in 1957. He sold his first painting titled “A Portrait of my Father” in the same year. He was now ready to explore, discover and experiment more which led him to move to London, in 1959, to study at the Royal College of Art. In the 1960s, David Hockney’s paintings presented a traditional take on modern art and were influenced by American abstract art . He stopped painting figures of life and depicted minimal abstract and suggestive effusive phrases and statements. In 1960, he painted his first serious work titled “Adhesiveness” which is also his first attempt at a double painting. David Hockney believes that he became a true artist as the painting implemented great precision. 

Life of an Artist: David Hockney - Sheet2
Adhesiveness 1960_©the David Hockney Foundation

Philosophy and iconic works

David Hockney received recognition across New York, Florence, Berlin, Rome and Egypt with his “sold out” show, winning awards and his characteristic blonde haircut. At this point, he started to play with styles, perspectives and source material, only to discover that his primary interests lie in interiors of homes, intimate portraits of couples and the interaction of representational illusion. David Hockney moved to Los Angeles in 1963 where he blossomed as an artist, who was free, knew what he was doing and got inspired by the bright Californian sun. David Hockney’s progress speeded up at his Los Angeles studio during which he started taking polaroids of landscapes and swimming pools and took up photography as a serious hobby to capture the lives and environment in California. He produced a few of his celebrated works during this time such as Beverly Hills Housewife (1967), Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966), the Bigger Splash (1967), Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachary (1968), Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1971) and his most famous painting Portrait of an Artist – Pool with two Figures (1972). His works are illustrated by a robust sight of naturalism and perfectly balanced images with details only where needed. David Hockney moved very often which was mirrored in his paintings. He moved to Paris in 1973 where he continues to experiment and produce masterpieces which resulted in some high-spirited paintings. In 1974, he painted a masterpiece double portrait “Shirley Goldfarb and Gregory Masurovsky”, after which double portrait paintings become his characteristic style and he created many exubarent paintings with this style. 

Life of an Artist: David Hockney - Sheet3
Beverly Hills Housewife 1967_©the David Hockney Foundation

David Hockney’s journey from a young boy from Bradford to becoming a Global celebrity is honoured through his first publication in 1976 “David Hockney by David Hockney – My Early Years”, which informed the world that his early years were behind and that he was a mature artist. Hockney takes a retrospective viewpoint on his works, life and career in the book. 

Leaving behind his early years, he makes painting an agency and plays with its tradition and core character. For example, in his painting “Model with Unfinished Self Portrait” (1977), David Hockney depicts a painting inside a painting. In the background of the painting, David Hockney is working on his desk and in the front a diligently detailed model lying on a bed. Although it forms one painting, the title tells us that the background is a painting within a painting. Due to the composition of the curtain, it looks like two entirely different frames, the one in which the artist paints and the other where the model is asleep. This illustrates the development from the naturalistic views to experimenting with new perspectives in painting. 

Life of an Artist: David Hockney - Sheet4
Model of Unfinished Self Portrait 1977_©the David Hockney Foundation

Meanwhile, David Hockney kept drawing inspiration from his surroundings and painted interiors, landscapes and portraits. Not only has his approach to colours become more dynamic with time but also his approach to the outlook of the picture has matured. David Hockney kept experimenting with new technology and in 1988 he had his first major retrospective at Los Angeles County of Artwork presenting two decades of work in more than 250 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, publications and theatre design models. In 1988, he moved to Malibu where he continues to paint with friends and the Santa Monica mountains. With the influence of theatre, his paintings keep becoming bold and abstract. The new millennium turned David Hockney to watercolour when he produced a series of landscapes, portraits, interiors and still objects. 

In 2008, Hockney moved to Bridlington, where he sets up his largest studio and creates large landscape paintings with the help of digital photography and memory. Hockney keeps working from his iPhone and iPad exploring video art. In 2018, his famous painting Portrait of an artist – Pool with two figures broke the record of the most expensive artwork by a living artist. He currently resides in Normandy, France and continues to create magic through his artworks. 

Portrait of an Artist – Pool with two figures is recognized as the most expensive painting in 2018_©the David Hockney Foundation

References:

Articles

  1. Vallerand, O. (2015). Living Pictures: Dragging the Home into the Gallery . Interiors. 4(2), pp 125 – 148. 

Online sources

  1. Delagrange , J. (2019). Artists – David Hockney. [Online]. Available at: https://www.contemporaryartissue.com/david-hockney/ [Accessed date: 06/08/2022]

Images/visual mediums

  1. David Hockney (1972). Anna Randal. [Photograph].
  2. Adhesiveness (1960). The David Hockney Foundation. [Photograph].
  3. Beverly Hills Housewife (1967). The David Hockney Foundation. [Photograph].
  4. Model of an Unfinished Self Portrait (1977). The David Hockney Foundation. [Photograph].
  5. Portrait of an Artist – Pool with two Figures (1972). The David Hockney Foundation. [Photograph].
Author

Shikha is an urban planner whose work is focused on climate responsive planning and ecosystems in neighbourhood planning. She has a keen interest in comprehending human connections in city spaces through ways of engaging with the community. Her passion for books, travelling, fiction and research writing keeps her motivated.

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