David Hockney Biography
David Hockney, CH, RA, (born 9 July 1937) is an English artist, based in Yorkshire, United Kingdom, although he also maintains a base in London. An important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century. His older sister who lives in Yorkshire, Margaret Hockney, is also an artist of still-life photos.
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Hockney was born in Bradford and educated first at Wellington Primary School (then Wellington first school). He later went to Bradford Grammar School, Bradford College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, where he met R. B. Kitaj. While still a student 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 the movement, 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 lived for many years, inspired Hockney to make a series of paintings of swimming pools in Los Angeles using the comparatively new Acrylic medium, rendered in a highly realistic style using vibrant colours. In 1967, his painting, Peter Getting Out Of Nick's Pool, won the John Moores painting prize at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. 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.
David 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 photographs 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, e.g. Kasmin 1982, and My Mother, Bolton Abbey, 1982.
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.
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. Consistent 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 work created using the Quantel formed part of a BBC series featuring a number of artists.
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 displays of Hockney's portraiture work, including 150 of his paintings, drawings, prints, sketchbooks and photocollages from over the course of five decades. 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, was hung in the Royal Academy's largest gallery in their annual Summer Exhibition. This work "is a monumental-scale view of a coppice in Hockney's native Yorkshire, between Bridlington and York. It was painted on 50 individual canvases, mostly working in situ, over five weeks last winter." In 2008, he donated this work to the Tate Gallery in London, saying: "I thought if I'm going to give something to the Tate I want to give them something really good. It's going to be here for a while. I don't want to give things I'm not too proud of...I thought this was a good painting because it's of England...it seems like a good thing to do".
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.
A conscientious objector, Hockney worked as a medical orderly in hospitals as his National Service in the 1950s.
He was made a Companion of Honour in 1997 and is also a Royal Academician.
Hockney serves on the advisory board of the new political magazine, Standpoint and contributed original sketches to be published in its launch edition, in June 2008.