British painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer David Hockney was one of the founder’s of English Pop Art in the 1960’s, and continues to be one of the most versatile artists of the 20th century. To add to his credit, he has also published two books on art, ‘David Hockney on David Hockney’ (1976) and ‘That's the Way I See It’ (1993).
David Hockney was born July 9th, 1937 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, the son of an accountant’s clerk and a devout-Methodist mother. He studied at the Bradford School of Art between 1953 and 1957, during which time he painted ‘Portrait of My Father’ (1955) whose sale was the first step to his success as a professional artist. He attended the Royal College of Art and continued to focus his genius on portraying family, friends and lovers, as well as some self-portraits that immediately gained attention and a well-deserved gold medal for achievement.
At the age of twenty-four, Hockney made a trip to California, a place he had been fantasizing about for a long time. The sunny sky and relaxed gay scene delighted the artist. He was eager to use his new surroundings as a backdrop for his next series of works; ‘the swimming pool’ paintings. He achieved international acclaim for this work, of which ‘A Bigger Splash’ became one of the most popular paintings of the series.
In 1967, the talented artist had his first one-man show at the John Moores Exhibition and took first prize. Three of the major works that were produced at the height of his photorealistic phase include ‘American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)’ (1968), ‘Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott’ (1969), and ‘Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy’ (Celia Birtwell and her then husband the fashion designer Ossie Clark in their Notting Hill home) (1970-71).
A brilliant draughtsman and an outstanding graphic artist, David Hockney provided etched illustrations for Cavafy's Poems (1967) and Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1969).
In the 1970’s, Hockney worked in Paris, but settled in Los Angeles in 1976. After Picasso’s death in 1973 (an artist he greatly admired), he created two etchings in his honor. During this period, he attempted some stage designing, creating elaborate sets and costume designs for Stravinsky's ‘The Rake's Progress’ and Mozart's ‘The Magic Flute’, produced in 1975 and 1978.
In the 1980’s David Hockney experimented with photography, producing photographic collages including ‘Pearlblossom Highway’ (1985). His first prints were two large lithographs of his friend Celia Birtwell, published by Gemini G.E.L. (the studio started by Ken Tyler). ‘The Scrabble Game’ (1983), another of his works from his ‘collage’ period, displayed photographs pasted next to each other and mounted on top of one another. The collage-photos re-examine Cubism, wherein the artist explores the use of time and space.
The artist was commissioned to design the cover as well as a series of pages for the December 1985 issue of the French edition of Vogue magazine. A portrayal of Celia Birtwell’s facial features was captured in such a way that it looked as though the eye had scanned her face diagonally.
Paintings from the late 1990s portray family members and friends, as well as a spectacular set of canvas oil studies of the Grand Canyon. In recent years, Hockney’s book ‘Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Techniques of the Old Masters’ (2001) has put him back in the spotlight with his advanced theories about how the art masters of the past used optical devices to assist them in their work.
His travels to Spain and France in the early part of 2004 inspired a series of brilliant watercolor landscapes. He also spent time capturing the Eastern Yorkshire landscape through the seasons, which resulted in a series of thirty-six watercolor studies.
To celebrate a life’s work of portraiture, an exhibition in David Hockney’s honor was held in October 2006 at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The exhibtion proved to be one of the most successful in the gallery's history.