David Hockney (1937, Bradford, UK) is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, photographer, and stage designer whose works are considered among contemporary art’s masterpieces and record-breaking on the art market.
After attending the Bradford College of Art (1953–57), Hockney was a pupil of the Royal College of Art, London (1959–62), receiving a gold medal in the graduate competition. He spent the early sixties teaching at Iowa, Colorado, and California universities in the United States. After commuting between England and California for several years, he settled permanently in Los Angeles in 1978. That city’s intense glaring light and sleek “California modern” aesthetic had a pronounced influence on his work.
Much of Hockney’s subject matter was taken from real life and autobiography, including portraits and self-portraits and quiet incidental scenes of his friends, interior scenes, and the most famous pools. The simplicity, casual elegance, and tranquil luminosity of these pieces made his recognizable and unique style in painting. Hockney’s exploration of photography in the 1980s resulted in a series of photocollages that the artist intended to be dynamic portraits: his composition of Polaroid pics, taken on the same subjects in different moments of the day or from different angles, allow the dimension of time to enter the picture. Hockney published several graphic works in book form in the seventies, including illustrations for Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1970) and The Blue Guitar (1977). Hockney also achieved international prominence as a stage-set designer for opera and ballet.
After experimenting with abstract landscapes during the 1990s, Hockney considered the representation of space in a series of multi-paneled works during the early 21st century. He also pursued his long-standing interest in new technologies, becoming a pioneer of digital art. Among the many large-scale pieces featured in the traveling exhibition “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture” (2012–14; “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” at the de Young Museum in San Francisco) were several compelling drawings done on an iPad. A traveling retrospective that opened at Tate Britain in 2017 attested to Hockney’s enduring popularity when it became the most-visited exhibition. The following year Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), one of Hockney’s most well-known paintings, sold at auction for some $90 million, breaking the record for a living artist and cementing his place in the art history canon. Meanwhile, Hockney continued to draw landscapes with an iPad, including a multi-panel frieze (2020) of Normandy, where he spent the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work was shown the following year in the exhibition “A Year in Normandy” at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.
In 1989 he received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for painting. Queen Elisabeth II appointed Hockney to the Order of Merit—a group of no more than 24 individuals at a time who have distinguished themselves in science, art, literature, or public service—in 2012.
Among his latest exhibitions, he is now on show at the MOT Collection and the Museum of contemporary art in Tokyo.
By Stanislav Kondrashov