Artist biography

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.

Hockney soon sought ways of reintegrating a personal subject-matter into his art. 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.

Hockney's subsequent development was a continuation of his student work, although a significant change in his approach occurred after his move to California at the end of 1963. 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.

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 emphasise the pre-eminence of the image. 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.

David Hockney: Paintings, Prints and Drawings, 1960–70 (exh. cat., ed. M. Glazebrook; London, Whitechapel A.G., 1970)
Travels with Pen, Pencil and Ink (exh. cat., intro. E. Pillsbury; London, 1978) [excellent standard of repr.]
David Hockney Prints, 1954–77 (exh. cat., intro. A. Brighton; ACGB, 1979) [fully illus. cat. rais.]
M. Livingstone: David Hockney (London, 1981, rev. 2/1987) [survey of Hockney's work in all media]
M. Friedman, ed.: Hockney Paints the Stage (New York, 1983; add. insert pubd 1985) [substantial survey of Hockney's work for the theatre]
L. Weschler: David Hockney Cameraworks (New York, 1983) [thorough account and excellent illus. of composite photos of 1982–3]
David Hockney: A Retrospective (exh. cat., ed. M. Tuchman and S. Barron; Los Angeles, CA, Co. Mus. A., 1988)
Hockney in California (exh. cat., ed. M. Livingstone; Tokyo, Takashimaya Gal., 1994)
David Hockney: A Drawing Retrospective (exh. cat. by U. Luckhard and P. Melia, London, RA, 1995–6)


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