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 David Hockney  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California / England      Known for: pop art painting, printmaking, digital, design and photography

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David Hockney
from Auction House Records.
BEVERLY HILLS HOUSEWIFE ( DIPTYCH )
Copyright, David Hockney
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the foremost painters, designers, and photographers of the 20th-century contemporary art scene in the United States and England, David Hockney was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England.  He experimented with numerous styles including that of 15th-Century Italian master, Piero della Francesca and with a variety of subject matter including portraits and other depictions of family and people he met in his extensive travels.

He studied at Bradford College of Art in 1957, and in 1962 at the Royal College of Art.  In the 1960s, much of his work was a homage to his heroes that included Picasso, Dubuffet, and Matisse, and in style was much influenced by Abstract Expressionism*.  In the mid 1970s, he spent three years in Paris and then traveled to Los Angeles, where he did a series of lithographs* and also did his first opera design, which was for Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress.  In 1988, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, awarded him an honorary doctorate.

One of his closest friends in New York City was Metropolitan Art Museum curator and leading art commentator, Henry Gedzhaler, with whom he traveled extensively in the 1970s and 1980s.  Hockney did numerous paintings, lithographs and drawings that included Gedzhaler.

He has had numerous one-man shows including at the Kasmin Gallery, 1963-1989; in New York at the Museum of Modern Art in 1964 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1988; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Holland in 1966; and the Tate Gallery in London in 1988.  He has also been a stage set designer for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Hockney has lectured at universities including the University of Iowa in 1964, the University of Colorado in 1965, the University of California in Los Angeles in 1966, and the University of California-Berkeley in 1967.

In 1998, he did a series of vivid pastels on the Grand Canyon called David Hockney: Space & Line, that were exhibited in Paris at Centre George Pompidou from January 27 to April 26th, 1999, and following that for a month at the Richard Gray Gallery in New York City.

The paintings are large-scale, impressionist* close-ups of the Canyon in the morning light.  In 1999, he won the Wollaston award for some of his Canyon paintings, which were exhibited at London's Royal Academy of Arts*.

In 2001, Hockney's book, Secret Knowledge, was published by Viking Press and stirred much discussion with his assertion that many of the Old Masters* including Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Durer frequently used optical devices to achieve their near perfect realism*.  His theory is that the mirror, the "camera obscura"*, and the "camera lucida"* were widely used by artists as early as the 1400s and that the introduction of photography in the 19th century freed artists from realism.


* For references for these terms and others, see AskART Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


Biography from GallArt.com:
David Hockney has often been regarded as a playboy of the art world. He has had lascivious relationships, and he has run among strange and crazy artistic circles. Yet he has always retained a sense of stability in his life through his constant and tireless devotion to his work. Hockney is an artist that has always enjoyed success and praise, facing little to no hardship in his career. What is interesting about his life is not the problems he has encountered, but the strides he has taken to bypass much human suffering and malaise.

David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England, to Laura and Kenneth Hockney. The Hockneys were, as David said, a "'radical working-class family.'" Laura and Kenneth were solid parents who only wanted their children to have the best education possible. Laura raised her children as strict Methodists and resolutely shunned smoking and drinking in the home. Kenneth was a passionate radical and a conscientious objector during World War I. David Hockney was always considered an eccentric in Bradford. He never really cared what people thought of him and always did as he pleased. He spent afternoons at Sunday School drawing cartoons of Jesus, much to his teachers' dismay. As a young child, Hockney also developed an obsession with opera when he first saw the Carl Rosa opera company's production of La Bohème.

In 1948, David Hockney won a scholarship to the Bradford Grammar School, one of the best schools in the country. Here he enjoyed his art classes most and thus decided that he wanted to become an artist. Furthermore, he disliked the other subjects he was required to study. In 1950, he asked to be transferred to the Regional College of Art in Bradford so that he could more seriously pursue his interest. However, the headmaster recommended that he first finish his general education before transferring anywhere. Hockney responded with misfit behavior towards his teachers and poor grades, even though he had found much success in school before this. He spent his class time doodling in notebooks. Nonetheless, his artistic leanings also won him prizes and recognition, and he drew comics for the school newspaper. Overall, he was a likeable and intelligent student with many friends.

In 1953, Hockney finally enrolled in the College of Art and began painting with oils, his medium of choice for most of his life. Hockney learned that painting was a process of seeing and thinking, rather than one of imitation. His artwork was abstract and quite personal and allowed him to deal with human sexuality and love in a public, yet still inhibited manner. He developed a penchant for painting mirrors and loved the artwork of painters such as Francis Bacon and other contemporaries. Socially, he made a lot of friends, but never really expressed any sexual interests. His group of acquaintances would often travel into London to catch various art shows. In the summer of 1957, Hockney took the National Diploma in Design Examination. He graduated with honors and then enrolled in the Painting School of the Royal College in London two years later, where and when he would gain national attention as an artist.

Hockney immediately felt at home at the Royal College. There were no steadfast rules or regulations. Not only did he find much success and pride in his work, but he also thrived in the many friendships he made there. He and his friends spent much of their time in the studio, but they explored the pubs and coffee bars around town as much as possible. Hockney was a serious student, however, and dedicated much effort to painting. During his first term, he experimented with more abstract styles, but he felt unsatisfied with that work, and he still sought his own style. His professors were good and receptive to his artwork, but Hockney seemed to learn the most from his fellow students who shared similar artistic interests and insights. Furthermore, he was quite a self-motivated sort of person and began to feel a need for meaningful subject matter, and so Hockney began painting works about vegetarianism and poetry he liked reading. After a little while, Hockney even began painting about his sexual orientation, writing words such as "queer" and 'unorthodox lover" in some of his paintings. While Hockney had been aware of his attraction to males growing up in Bradford, he had never felt comfortable talking about his sexual orientation until he came to the Royal College and befriended other gay men.

In the summer of 1961, Hockney traveled to New York for the first time. His friend Mark Berger showed him around all the city's galleries and museums, while his other friend Ferrill Amacker showed him the hot gay spots. To pay for the trip, Hockney sold several of his paintings. He was also able to work on other paintings and sketches while he was there at the Pratt Institute's facilities. It was from his New York sketchbooks that Hockney came up with the idea for an updated version of William Hogarth's Rake's Progress, which he eventually finished two years later. Hockney was offered five thousand pounds for the plates and thus was able to live in America for a year at the end of 1963. In the mean time, he finished his studies at the Royal College and received considerable attention from critics, professors, and peers at several student shows. At this time early on in Hockney's career, his artwork was poetic and tended to tell stories. He even wrote poetic ramblings on many of his paintings as well. For a short time, Hockney was in danger of not receiving his diploma because he had failed his Art History courses. Nonetheless, he was awarded the gold medal for outstanding distinction at the convocation and ended his college career on a tremendously good note.

In New York, Hockney befriended Andy Warhol, at whose studio young artists often met and socialized. He also met Dennis Hopper that same night. However, Hockney's main purpose in returning to the States was not to meet peers, but rather to travel to California. Hockney had become fascinated with the images of young, built, and tan men in the publication Physique Pictorial, which he had collected while in London, and he was hungry to experience the sleazy underground world of Los Angeles. He immediately loved the city and made Santa Monica his home. Spending much of his day at Santa Monica pier, Hockney would just people-watch and admire the beautiful boys that seemed to be at the beach every day of the year. This new environment greatly inspired him. In his California paintings, such as Man in Shower in Beverly Hills (1964), Hockney featured mainly wet, sculpted men and typically colorful southern California architecture. Overall, he was enamored of the more laid-back, sunny lifestyle that the city of Los Angeles provided. It was around this time that Hockney developed the naturalistic, realistic style he is most known for today.

In the summer of 1964, Hockney was invited to teach at the University of Iowa. He was generally bored with this new milieu but was able to complete four paintings in six weeks there. An old friend from London Ossie Clark came to America for the first time and visited Hockney in Iowa. The two traveled across the country a bit, visiting gay bars. At the same time, Hockney hosted his first American exhibition in New York. He received rave reviews and sold every painting.

In December of 1964, Hockney returned to London to give a talk on homosexual imagery in America. A year later, he returned to America to teach at the University of Colorado in Boulder. There he lived in an apartment without windows and painted the Rocky Mountains from his memory. After his term there, Hockney went to California with some old friends. One night in Hollywood, Hockney met the blond beach bum of his dreams, "a marvelous work of art, called Bob," and took him home. The two drove to New York, and Hockney flew Bob out to London, but soon realized that it was a mistake and sent the boy home.

Two years later, Hockney experienced his first true romance with a nineteen-year-old student named Peter Schlesinger, who was just about everything Hockney ever wanted in a man. He was attractive, smart, young, innocent, and in great need of Hockney's guidance. Schlesinger became a favorite subject of Hockney's, and the many drawings of him show the informal intimacy of the two. A year later, Schlesinger transferred to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz and moved into an apartment with Hockney. During the day, Hockney would paint, but at night the two would often lie in bed drinking wine and reading. Hockney was very happy. In June of 1967, Hockney took his new beau to Europe, and the two toured the continent. At this time, Hockney's interest in photography grew. He would take endless shots of Schlesinger, mostly for fun, but also for study.

For many years after that, Hockney remained content painting and showcasing his work at various exhibits. His work had gained much esteem and attention all over the world. Critics instantly recognized the power of his art. Most of his paintings from the late sixties and early seventies, particularly Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy (1970-1971), adhered to the concept of naturalism -- that is, representing things as they were actually seen. His interest in photography greatly advanced his skill in this area, but Hockney felt as though he depended on it too much from time to time. He liked using the photographs more for the study of light, rather than to aid his memory. For the most part, Hockney was concerned with finding a balance between pure skill and pure art in his idea of naturalism. He did want his art to seem overtly academic, but moreover, he had not satisfied his abstract tendencies.

In 1971, Hockney experienced some tension in his relationship with Schlesinger. The age difference had become a problem, and Schlesinger wanted some independence and room to grow. Hockney's eye also began to wander, and his social life became more active once again. He continued to entertain large groups of people in his studio and basked in the glory of his fame. Hockney decided to travel to America for a break, and when he returned, he found out that Schlesinger had moved to Paris and had been having an affair. Although he was hurt, Hockney was very relieved. A while later, the two reunited in Barcelona, but once again had many difficulties. Schlesinger felt that Hockney placed his work above everything else and felt as though he himself were only an erotic object to be shown off to others. He decided never to move back in with Hockney again. Hockney was devastated and started taking Valium to combat the depression and loneliness he suffered.

In February of 1974, Jack Hazan finished a biographical film on Hockney's life. At first, Hockney was shocked and devastated by the film, which had brought many issues that hit too close to home for him. In particular, he was disturbed by the film's portrayal of his romantic relationship with Schlesinger. However, after the film had received some attention and praise, Hockney realized that he had to swallow his pride and sign for its release in order to give Hazan the respect and admiration he deserved. The film was banned in many countries for its explicit portrayal of homosexuality, but won many awards among the critics.

In the eighties, Hockney turned to photo collage. Using a Polaroid camera, Hockney would assemble collages of photos that he would take as quickly as possible. Hockney was fascinated with the idea of seeing things through a window frame. This medium allowed him to see things in a whole new fashion. He took a drive in the southwest United States taking thousands of photos and fitting them altogether into various collages, such as You make the picture, Zion Canyon, Utah. His artwork also began to take on a psychological dimension. In the autumn of 1983, Hockney began a series of self-portraits, allowing the public to enter his personal inner life. It is obvious in these works that Hockney was quite vulnerable and unsure of himself, even though he had achieved major success in his life as an artist.

In the nineties, Hockney continued to experiment with rising technologies. He used a color laser copier in some of his works and reproduced some of his paintings. Hockney was impressed with the vibrancy of color that could be achieved using such devices. He also began sending drawings to friends via fax machines and was thrilled with this new way of communication. Much of the appeal lay in the fact that these newly produced images had no financial value at all. Thus sharing art became a true act of love and appreciation.

Hockney's life and all his loves are always on display to the public. By embracing all sorts of technology and media, Hockney has made his art accessible to people everywhere. He has used art to express the love he has felt for others, and consequently, his works show personal stake and personal meaning. Ironically, his artwork caused much personal suffering and strife in the making and breaking of his romances, while at the same time, garnering him much respect and admiration. Hockney has truly made art a form of real human interaction and communication.

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art:
David Hockney has always denied being a Pop artist but is included under this heading because this is how the public perceives him.  The most highly publicized British artist since the Second World War, Hockney was born in Bradford, England in 1937, the fourth of five children.  By the time he won a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School at the age of eleven, he had already decided that he wanted to be an artist.  He drew for the school magazine and produced posters for the school debating society as a substitute for homework.  At sixteen Hockney persuaded his parents to let him go to the local art school, and this was followed by two years of working in hospitals as an alternative to National Service, as he had registered as a conscientious objector.

Hockney went to the Royal College of Art in London to continue his studies, arriving there in 1959: “Immediately after I started at the Royal College, I realized that there were two groups of students there: a traditional group, who carried on as they had done in art school, doing still life, life painting and figure compositions; and then what I thought of as the more adventurous, lively students, the brightest ones, who were involved in the art of their time.  They were doing big Abstract Expressionist paintings on hardboard.”

Hockney duly tried his hand at abstraction, but found it too sterile. He was at this moment in a phase of rapid self-discovery on both artistic and personal levels, coming to terms with his own sexuality, and at the same time searching for a style. Since figure-painting seemed 'anti-modern' Hockney began by including words in his paintings as a way of humanizing them, but these were soon joined by figures painted in a deliberately rough and rudimentary style, which owed a great deal to Jean Dubuffet.  Hockney's ebullient personality soon made him well known, even outside the Royal College, and he made his first major impact as a painter with the January 1961 Young Contemporaries Exhibition.  This show marked the public emergence of a new Pop movement in Britain, with Hockney considered one of its leaders.

In the same year Hockney made a series of discoveries.  He visited New York, where he met Andy Warhol and Dennis Hopper among others, and was struck by the freedom of American society.  It was at this stage that he bleached his hair and began to present a new image, fueled not only by the United States but also by his discovery of the poetry of Walt Whitman.  Hockney had begun to make etchings, and on his return to England began a series of prints which reflected his American experiences.  He also visited Italy for the first time in December 1961 and Berlin in 1962.

Hockney's success was so rapid that he became independent very soon after leaving the Royal College and did not, like the vast majority of his contemporaries, have to rely on teaching in order to make a living.  In 1963 he traveled to Egypt at the invitation of the London Sunday Times, and then at the end of the year went to Los Angeles, a city he had always fantasized about: “Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I'd passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas and won some money, got myself a studio, started painting, all within a week.  And I thought, it's just how I imagined it would be.”

The Los Angeles landscape and lifestyle became important features of Hockney's work.  There were other important changes in his work as well as he started using acrylics rather than oil paint, and he made increasing use of photography for purposes of documentation. His life was professionally successful--he had no fewer than five one-man exhibitions in Europe in 1966--and he was personally happy.  In 1970, Hockney had his first major retrospective exhibition; it was held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London.

In 1973, Hockney went to live in Paris.  While there he took the opportunity to work with Aldo and Piero Crommelynck, who had been Picasso's master printers, and he produced a series of etchings in memory of Picasso who had died earlier that year.  Picasso had been one of Hockney's heroes since he saw the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Gallery in the summer of 1960.  In 1974, there was a large exhibition of Hockney's work at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.  His easel paintings made during the 1980s show the influence of Matisse and Picasso.

Hockney was also experimenting both with large composite photographs and with works made of paper pulp impregnated with color--the Paper Pools.  From 1982 Hockney explored the use of the camera, making composite images of Polaroid photographs arranged in a rectangular grid.  Later he used regular 35-millimetre prints to create photo-collages, compiling a 'complete' picture from a series of individually photographed details.

After working with California master printer Ken Tyler in the 1980s making etchings and lithographs, Hockney explored ways of creating work with color photocopiers in 1986. “The works I did with the copying machine ...were not reproductions,” he said later, “they were very complex prints.”  Subject to the same curiosity about new technical methods, he began to experiment with the fax machine, and in 1989 even sent work for the Sao Paulo Biennale to Brazil via fax. Experiments using computers followed, composing images and colors on the screen and having them printed directly from the computer disk without preliminary proofing. 

Major retrospectives of Hockney's work have been held in New York, Los Angeles and Europe. Technical experimentation has continued to inform and develop his work.

In 2008, Hockney called on Britian’s most celebrated artists to donate at least one piece of their work to the Tate Modern saying that it was the duty of artists to give something back to an institution whose support had ensured that they not struggle in their early years.  David Hockney primarily works in his studio in the Hollywood Hills near Los Angeles in California, where he has lived permanently since 1978.

QUOTE:
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

Select Museum Collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Tate Gallery, London
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Australia
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC


Biography from Leslie Sacks Fine Art:
One of the most widely acclaimed of all living artists, David Hockney’s popularity is based on the enormous, continuing appeal of his pictures and the popular perception of him as a colorful extrovert. David Hockney has worked in a wide variety of media including painting, graphics, photography and theater design as well as a versatile selection of subject matter ranging from famous portraits to landscapes of southern California.

Hockney was born in Yorkshire, England in 1937. David Hockney first came to public prominence in the early sixties, as a post-graduate student of painting at the Royal College of Art in London. David Hockney experimented with numerous styles and became one of the most important portraitists of his era, renowned for depictions of family and people he met in his extensive travels. His work demonstrates a wish to uphold the human figure as a fit subject of painting, as well as an interest in imagery drawn from the urban environment. Despite his shouting ‘I am not a Pop artist’ during a private view party in 1962, Hockney’s student work is conventionally seen as contributing to the development of Pop Art in Britain.

In 1964, David Hockney moved to Los Angeles. In that year a swimming pool first appeared in the seminal painting, The California Collector, and David Hockney continued to paint the subject passionately. In these early water pictures, David Hockney was influenced by the abstract, interlocking puzzle–piece surface of Jean Dubuffet’s work. Hockney’s early pool water was stylized in a flat, modern manner in which looping spaghetti like lines complicate the notion of moving water. Over the next several years, portraiture and photography primarily occupied the artist, and he developed an intimate and powerful naturalism in this period.

David Hockney abandoned painting for a time in the mid-seventies to concentrate on drawing and print-making. Not many paintings were produced during the early eighties either, the artist preferring to spend his time constructing collages from photographs. These photo-collages were recently exhibited in a retrospective of the artist’s photography at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Hockney's originality as a printmaker was apparent by the time he produced A Rake's Progress, a series of 16 etchings conceived as a contemporary and autobiographical version of William Hogarth's visual narrative. Hockney's large body of graphic work, concentrating on etching and lithography, in itself assured him an important place in modern British art, and in series inspired by literary sources such as Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy, Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and The Blue Guitar, he did much to revive the tradition of the livre d'artiste.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


David Hockney is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Modernism
California Painters
Painters of Grand Canyon



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