David Hockney

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David Hockney

In addition to his photographs and individual art shows, versatile artist David Hockney (born 1937) has also produced work as a painter, graphic artist, stage designer, and writer.

Aself-taught artist, David Hockney is best known for his captivating photographs and individual art shows that display his work. Hockney has worked also as an independent painter, graphic artist, and stage designer. Hockney's reputation as a genuinely original and powerful artist is secure even though his work continues to push the boundaries of public perception and critical opinions. Although much of his work is considered "user-friendly" and tasteful, thereby considered modernist, Hockney has the ability to shock. Hockney's uncanny ability to navigate the tides of public opinions and perceptions of him has provided him with a reputation that is not only accepting of criticism, but incorporates such criticism into future works. He has taught as an art instructor at a variety of schools, including the University of Iowa, the University of Colorado, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of California at Berkeley. Hockney was awarded an honorary degree in 1988 from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Although considered by some critics to be a lightweight, Hockney continues to prove his versatility through teaching and writing as well as his skill through painting to create works of an accomplished artist.

Introduction to Art

David Hockney was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England on July 9, 1937. Hockney admired the likes of Picasso, Dufy, Matisse, and Fragonard. He tried to utilize their techniques in his "impressionistic" photographs which later lead to paintings. Hockney's parents, Kenneth and Laura Hockney, allowed their son early on to explore the world around him and have the freedom and mobility to interpret what he saw in way that pleased him. This freedom of expression enabled the young Hockney to not only gain admittance to the Bradford Grammar Art School Society, but he received his first recognition there as well. At eleven years of age, Hockney's work was characterized by happiness in images such as a wave cresting against the shore, a kiss, or a drop of water. The young Hockney believed that life's simple pleasures were often not adequately imitated in art; that in the rush of people's existence they often failed to notice the simplicity and serenity of the world around them. Hockney believed he could reproduce these images through his art and thereby provide people with some of the pleasures they may have overlooked. Hockney felt his work would help people realize that play and its enjoyment in and of itself was serious work.

Formal Schooling and Influences

In addition to the Bradford Grammar School of Art, Hockney attended the Bradford College of Art between the years 1953 and 1957. He later attended the Royal College of Art in London, England, from 1959 until 1962. Even with the extensive formal training and education, Hockney's style was essentially acquired through self instruction. He was especially talented in the area of photography and learned his skill with constant practice and dedication beginning in 1962. Hockney's early exposure to art as well as the work he produced while training was considered to be largely conservative, thereby making it pleasurable to look at.

It is a widely held belief among those in the art world that Hockney's meeting with the modern artist Jacob Kramer in Leeds and the viewing of Alan Davie's exhibition in Wakfield in 1958 pushed Hockney towards the type of work that is considered avant-garde and identified him more with the pop artists of the late sixties. Alan Davie went on to hold a considerable influence over Hockney. This influence is dramatically represented by a series of abstract expressionists canvases that Hockney produced during his first year at the Royal College of the Arts.

That year, 1959, Hockney joined a small group of other young, experimental artists that included the likes of Peter Blake and Allen Jones. Another individual that tremendously affected Hockney and held considerable influence over the work produced by Hockney was American artist R. B. Kitaj. Kitaj's work was of commonplace scenes as well as contemporary people and events. Almost simplistic at first notice, Kitaj's work evolved into much more detail the more it was viewed. While Kitaj's work discreetly affected the British Pop Art movement, it profoundly affected Hockney. Hockney's keen awareness of the times around him is directly attributed, in many critic's opinions, to Kitaj.

Hockney developed the ability to take an ordinary scene and develop it through photographs and paint into something incredibly pleasing to view. The ability to develop such scenes immediately earned Hockney a place among contemporary artists of his time. Although not considered a master yet, his work was certainly begin to demonstrate the signs. A second American artist that influenced Hockney was Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg's compositions also lead Hockney in becoming more aware of his surroundings and how such surroundings could be propelled into lasting art. These influences, along with Hockney's own indescribable tastes, allowed Hockney the rare privilege to experiment with his work, while still growing to become a serious artist.

Hockney's Arrival

David Hockney was able to combine his formidable knowledge relating to the history of art and its techniques with a very unusual insight or sensitivity to the contemporary visual currents. He was able to produce what the public wanted at the time, or more specifically, Hockney was able to create exactly what the art connoisseur thought he wanted. Regardless of the critics' interpretations, Hockney developed this keen sense and ability (along with his love of publicity, that at times has been considered flagrant opportunism by his challengers) into an art world marvel that has kept him on the forefront of the American and British art scenes.

Hockney arrived in the professional art world on the coattails of the 1960s and the world's fascination with Pop Art. Hockney was able to manipulate his innate skill as a photographer and his learned ability to paint and combined them into something that, while not new, took people by surprise. For example, Hockney would take two, sometimes more, photographs of the same image but from different vantage points, thereby changing the actual image only slightly. However, by combining the photos, Hockney created a distinct and well-integrated work. The idea of a photographic collage, while not new, provided Hockney with a new medium to capitalize on. Even though other artists such as Rejlander and Muybridge had done similar work to Hockney's, they had not attempted it on the same scale. Such ability earned Hockney the 1985 Infinity Award. This achievement is awarded to an artist in any media that utilizes photography.

Hockney's Ideas

For Hockney, the ability to capture ideas came easily. He possessed an insight that illuminated for him the hidden beauty in the person walking down the street or the poem written a hundred years ago. Hockney pulled ideas for art from everywhere. Some of his more significant sources, artists in their own right, included Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, and Francis Bacon. Hockney also admired William Blake. Blake's poetry provided Hockney with vivid imagery that he transferred with great success to canvas, but never showed publicly. Hockney did, however, produce and show several works based on the works of Walt Whitman. One such work, the 1961 etching Myself and My Heroes, depicted Hockney along with Whitman and Mahatma Gandhi. Quotations from Whitman are prevalent throughout Hockney's work. Hockney was able to use the words of Whitman to more clearly express the abstract and ambiguity in art. Such situations arose, according to Hockney, when a artist lacked skill or was confused.

Hockney drew ideas from fairy tales as well. Some of his more renowned work comes from his etchings of tales by the Brothers Grimm. His 1969 one-person show at the Kasmin featured etchings made up largely of six of the Grimm's tales. The completion of this particular work and show fulfilled a lifelong dream of Hockney's; he had even taken a boat trip on the Rhine from Mainz to Cologne so as to be able to capture the atmosphere and vividness of the tales.

Contemporary Hockney

By the early 1970s, Hockney had moved on to more realistic and conventional paintings. Increasingly inspired by Balthus, Edward Hopper, and Giorgio Morandi, Hockney's work became less and less influenced by literature. This move was well received by critics. While Hockney's work is physically larger than what he used to produce, his later work exemplified post-painterly abstraction in a combination with minimalism. Such a combination allowed Hockney to move even closer to a permanence within the art world. Hockney's work has been displayed internationally.

No longer does Hockney have to contend with accusations of not being a true artist. Hockney has not only proven his versatility in art but in other areas as well. He has published an extensive number of books and screenplays, worked as a set and costume stage designer, and has made numerous television and film appearances. Hockney has been awarded numerous honors, including the Guinness Award and the 1991 Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. Although Hockney was first identified with late Pop Art, he has transcended that label to become one of the few internationally known and lasting artists to come out of the 1960s.

Further Reading

Smith, Roberta, "From the Heart and Hand of David Hockney, " in New York Times, April 3, 1996, p. B1.

Peppiatt, Michael, "Sunshine Superman, " in Town & Country Monthly, April 1996, p. 43.

Glover, Michael, "David Hockney, " in ARTnews, April 1996, p. 143.

Luckhardt, Urlich, and Melia, Paul, "A Drawing Retrospective, " in David Hockney, Chronicle Books, 1996.

Webb, Peter, Portrait of David Hockney, Dutton, 1st American edition, 1988.

Livingstone, Marco, David Hockney, 1st American edition, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1981.

Knewstub, John, and Maurice Rothenstein, Modern English Painters, St. Martin's Press, 1952, 1974. □

Hockney, David

views updated May 29 2018


HOCKNEY, David (b. 9 July 1937), artist.

David Hockney—like Andy Warhol—led a generation of artists who in the 1960s openly affirmed a gay identity forged in relation to popular culture. Born and educated in provincial Yorkshire, England, Hockney won a scholarship to London's Royal College of Art in 1959. Under the influence of city life and an American classmate, Hockney, in his own words, "came out" in 1960. In this "exciting moment," he recalled, he realized that his art could become an expression of his sexual identity (Livingstone, p. 21).

Hockney's paintings from this period record his efforts to align himself with a legacy of homosexual artists. His titles—often written into the paintings as part of the composition—quote or allude to homosexual poets W. H. Auden, Constantine Cavafy, Antonin Artaud, and especially Walt Whitman. Though his imagery recalls Marsden Hartley's coded expressions of homosexuality, the simplicity of Hockney's numeric codes (1=A, 2=B, and so on) and pervading humor mark him as a member of a less secretive and more hopeful generation. The title of one of his paintings, We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961), for instance, quotes Whitman's poetry, but also alludes to a newspaper headline, "Two Boys Cling to Cliff All Night Long," a reference to a hiking accident that Hockney chose to imagine as a sexual fantasy involving the handsome pop music star Cliff Richards. According to Hockney's simple numeric codes, Richards is also signified by the number "4.2.":D.B. or "Doll Boy" in reference to his hit song, "Living Doll." Throughout these

works, Hockney's affirmation of gay identity is suggested by brightly colored cartoonlike figures of lovers that stand out against drab backgrounds scrawled with graffiti, as if to claim the potential for delight even in bleak surroundings.

Hockney's interest in emerging forms of gay community drew him to New York City and California. In the summer of 1961, he used prize money from a printmaking competition to travel to New York City, where he acquired a boyfriend and reveled in the city's gay bars and bookstores. In New York City, Hockney dyed his hair blond as a way, he recalled, to reinvent himself. This episode appears in a series of prints he created that fictionalized his New York City trip after the model of illustrated satires popular in the eighteenth century, which showed young men tempted by wicked city life. Although Hockney's version of A Rake's Progress ends, following its eighteenth-century models, in an insane asylum, Hockney himself moved to California in 1963 because, he later explained, "California in my mind was a sunny land of movie studios and beautiful semi-naked people. My picture of it was admittedly strongly colored by physique magazines published there" (Hockney, 1976, p. 93). Reality did nothing to dim Hockney's enthusiasm. His popular paintings of suburban Los Angeles idealize its low-slung houses, mechanically sprinkled yards, palm trees, fancy bathrooms, and swimming pools—these last often populated with attractive men.

Hockney's shower and pool paintings often included figures culled from the physique magazines that had inspired him to move to Los Angeles, combining them with his own snapshots of places and people he knew well. This fusion of documentary veracity with mass-media fantasy associated Hockney with Pop Art. A documentary impulse is reflected in his participation in the film A Bigger Splash, a study of the relationship between Hockney's life and work shot in 1971 (released in 1974). Remarkable in that era for its frank, unsensationalized acknowledgment of gay identity, the film documents Hockney's emotional turmoil at the end of a five-year relationship.

Hockney's interest in documentary also helped prompt his move, around 1980, toward photography as a medium. Again insisting on his art's roots in his sexual identity, Hockney claimed that his collages of snapshots of the same scene from different angles derived from his frustration with how "erotic photographs" lacked "life," which he defined as "lived time" (Hockney, 1984, p. 9). His photographic collages expanded far beyond their erotic origins, however, creating a complex visual diary of his corner of the gay community. Here gay identity is enmeshed in other aspects of life. Mainstream newspapers, novels by gay writers, and gay porn magazines mingle in Hockney's interiors, just as portraits of heterosexual couples and children mix with images of Hockney's lovers and his older gay mentors and friends, among them the novelist Christopher Isherwood. The variety of Hockney's interests is reflected in the diversity of his output, which includes not only paintings, drawings, and photo collages, but stage and costume designs as well as a book, Secret Knowledge (2001), on the history of artists' use of lenses.


Hockney, David. David Hockney. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.

——. Cameraworks. New York: Knopf, 1984.

——. Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Techniques of the Old Masters. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001.

Livingstone, Marco. David Hockney. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.

Tuchman, Maurice, and Stephanie Barron, eds. David Hockney: A Retrospective. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988.

Christopher Reed

see alsophysique magazines and photographs; visual art.

Hockney, David

views updated Jun 11 2018


HOCKNEY, David. British, b. 1937. Genres: Design, Photography, Art/Art history, Illustrations. Career: Artist. Maidstone College of Art, England, instructor, 1962; University of Iowa, Iowa City, lecturer, 1964; University of Colorado, Boulder, lecturer, 1965; University of California at Los Angeles, lecturer, 1966, honorary chair of drawing, 1980; University of California at Berkeley, lecturer, 1967. Exhibitions: (One-person shows) in London, NYC, Amsterdam, Manchester, England, Berlin, Paris, Mexico City, Tokyo, Los Angeles. Designer for stage productions. Publications: David Hockney by David Hockney, 1976, 2nd ed, 1977; Paper Pools, 1980; David Hockney: Looking at Pictures in a Book, 1981; Cameraworks, 1984; Martha's Vineyard: My Third Sketchbook from the Summer of 1982, 1985; Hockney on Photography: Conversations with Paul Joyce, 1988; Picasso, 1990; Hockney's Alphabet, 1991; That's the Way I See It, 1993. AUTHOR OF INTRODUCTIONS: Draw: How to Master the Art, by J. Camp, 1994; Making It New: Collected Essays and Writings of Henry Geldzahler, 1994. ILLUSTRATOR of books by: D. Posner, the Brothers Grimm, W. Hogarth, W. Stephens, T. Seidler, S. Spender, H. Bienek. COLLECTIONS: 72 Drawings Chosen by the Artist, 1971; 18 Portraits by David Hockney, 1977; David Hockney Prints, 1954-77, 1979; Pictures by David Hockney, 1979, 2nd ed, 1979; David Hockney, 23 Lithographs, 1980; David Hockney Photographs, 1982; Hockney's Photographs, 1983; Kasmin's Hockneys: 45 Drawings, 1983; David Hockney fotografo, 1983; David Hockney in America, 1983; Hockney Posters, 1983; Photographs by David Hockney, 1986; David Hockney: Etchings and Lithographs, 1988; David Hockney: Graphics, 1992; Off the Wall, 1994, in the US as David Hockney: Poster Art, 1994. EXHIBIT CATALOGS: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, 1960-1970, 1970; David Hockney: tableau et dessins: Musee des arts decoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Pavillon de Marsan, 11 Octobre-9 Decembre 1974, 1974; David Hockney: dessins et gravures, Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, Avril 1975, 1975; David Hockney: Prints and Drawings Circulated by the International Exhibits Foundation, Washington, DC, 1978-1980, 1978; Travels with Pen, Pencil, and Ink, 1978; David Hockney: Sources and Experiments: An Exhibition Held at the Sewall Gallery, Rice University, September 7 to October 15, 1982, 1982; David Hockney: Frankfurter Kunstverein, Steinernes Haus am Romerberg, Frankfurt am Main, 15.3.-24.4. 1983, 1983; Hockney Paints the Stage, 1983; Photographs by David Hockney: Organized and Circulated by the International Exhibitions Foundation, Washington, DC, 1986-88, 1986; David Hockney: A Retrospective, Organized by Maurice Tuchman and Stephanie Barron, 1988; David Hockney: Fax Cuadros, 1990. Address: 7508 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046, U.S.A.

Hockney, David

views updated May 21 2018

Hockney, David (1937– ) English painter, the most acclaimed British artist of his generation. He first attracted attention with witty pop art paintings, such as Flight into Italy-Swiss Landscape (1962). The swimming-pool was a common theme, such as A Bigger Splash (1967). His portraits in spacious interiors, such as Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970), are almost period pieces. His graphic work is often regarded as being more innovative than his painting.


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