David Hockney

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Artists

David Hockney, CH, RA, (born July 9, 1937) is an English artist, based in Los Angeles, California, United States. An important contributor to the British Pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

Early years

Hockney was born in Bradford and educated at Bradford Grammar School, Bradford College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, where he met R. B. Kitaj. While still at the Royal College of Art, Hockney was featured in the exhibition Young Contemporaries, alongside Peter Blake, that announced the arrival of British Pop Art. He became associated with pop art, but his early works also display expressionist elements, not dissimilar to certain works by Francis Bacon. Sometimes, as in We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961), named after a poem by Walt Whitman, these works make reference to his homosexuality. From 1963 Hockney was represented by the influential art dealer John Kasmin. In 1963 Hockney visited New York, making contact with Andy Warhol. Later, a visit to California, where he settled, inspired Hockney to make a series of painting">oil paintings of swimming pools in Los Angeles. These are executed in a more realistic style and use vibrant colours. He also made prints, portraits of friends, and stage designs for the Royal Court Theatre, Glyndebourne, La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.



Hockney studied lithography in art school in Bradford, Yorkshire. His first print was Myself and My Heroes (1961), where he appears beside a haloed Gandhi and Walt Whitman. His first major project in printmaking was a series of sixteen etchings where he represents Hogarth's A Rake's Progress autobiographically. In the 1960s in California, he created with Ken Tyler another series of prints titled A Hollywood Collection. Many of his lithographs are portraits of his friends, most frequently of them Celia Birtwell. In 1970-1 Hockney painted Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy a double portrait of Celia Birtwell and her then husband the fashion designer Ossie Clark in their Notting Hill home. The painting has become one of the most popular in the collection of the Tate Gallery and was voted as one of the UK's most favourite paintings in a 2005 poll carried out by BBC Radio 4. His first prints during the 1980s were two big lithographs of Celia published by Gemini G.E.L. (the studio started by Ken Tyler) in 1982). Hockney also made two etchings honoring Pablo Picasso, whose work he admired and was influenced by, after Picasso's death in 1973.

In an unusual use of paintings, the opening credits of the 1978 Neil Simon film, California Suite, based on his play of the same name, show a leisurely display of about a dozen California-themed Hockney paintings.

Pearblossom Highway #2, 1986.

The "joiners"

Hockney has also worked with photography, or, more precisely, photocollage. Using varying numbers (~5-150) of small Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. Because these photos are taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times, the result is work which has an affinity with Cubism, an affinity which was one of Hockney's major aims - discussing the way human vision works. Some of these pieces are landscapes such as Pearblossom Highway #2, others being portraits.

These photomontage works appeared mostly between 1970 and 1986. He referred to them as "joiners". He began this style of art by taking Polaroid photographs of one subject and arranging them into a grid layout. The subject would actually move while being photographed so that the piece would show the movements of the subject seen from the photographer's perspective. In later works Hockney changed his technique and moved the camera around the subject instead.

Hockney's creation of the "joiners" occurred accidentally. He noticed in the late sixties that photographers were using cameras with wide-angle lenses to take pictures. He did not like such photographs because they always came out somewhat distorted. He was working on a painting of a living room and terrace in Los Angeles. He took Polaroid shots of the living room and glued them together, not intending for them to be a composition on their own. Upon looking at the final composition, he realized it created a narrative, as if the viewer was moving through the room. He began to work more and more with photography after this discovery and even stopped painting for a period of time to exclusively pursue this new style of photography.

Later works

In 1974, Hockney was the subject of Jack Hazan's film, A Bigger Splash (named after one of Hockney's swimming pool paintings from 1967).

Hockney was commissioned to design the cover and a series of pages for the December 1985 issue of the French edition of Vogue magazine. In consistency with his interest in Cubism and admiration for Pablo Picasso, Hockney chose to paint Celia Birtwell (who appears in several of his works) with different views -- her facial features as if the eye had scanned her face diagonally.

Another important commission of his was to draw with the Quantel Paintbox, a computer program that allowed the artist to sketch direct onto the monitor screen. This commission was taken by Hockney in December 1985. Using this program was similar to drawing on the PET film for prints which he had much experience in. His works were so successful that a video was made while he was using the Quantel and broadcast by the BBC.

His A Bigger Grand Canyon, a series of 60 paintings which combined to produce one enormous picture, was bought by the National Gallery of Australia for $4.6 million.

On 21 June 2006, his painting of The Splash fetched £2.6m - a record for a Hockney painting .

In October 2006 the National Portrait Gallery in London organized one of the largest ever display's of Hockney's portraiture work. The collection consisted of his earliest self portraits up into his latest work completed in 2005. The exhibition proved to be one of the most successful in the gallery's history, and Hockney himself assisted in displaying the works. The exhibition ran until January 2007.

In June 2007, Hockney's largest painting, Bigger Trees Near Warter, which measures 15 x 40 foot and consists of fifty canvasses, was hung in the Royal Academy's largest gallery in their annual Summer Exhibition.

Many of Hockney's works are now housed in a converted industrial building called Salts Mill, in Saltaire, in his home town of Bradford.

The Hockney-Falco thesis

In the 2001 television programme and book, Secret Knowledge, Hockney posited that the Old Masters used camera obscura techniques, utilized with a concave mirror, which allowed the subject to be projected onto the surface of the painting, leaving the task of the painter to simply match and fill in the colors. Hockney argues that this technique migrated gradually to Italy and most of Europe, and is the reason for the photographic style of painting we see in the Renaissance and later periods of art. His theory of the use of this method in Old Master works is seen as incorrect by most optical historians and many art historians.

Public life

Hockney was made a Companion of Honour in 1997 and is also a Royal Academician.

In September 2005 Hockney declared his opposition to the proposed UK ban on smoking in public places.

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