“Style is something you can use, and you can be like a magpie, just taking what you want. The idea of the rigid style seemed to me then something you needn’t concern yourself with, it would trap you.” David Hockney.
David Hockney was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1937 to a working class family. He went on to a prize-winning career as a student at the Royal College of Art. It was there that he met fellow artists such as R.B. Kitaj, Peter Philips and Patrick Caulfield, who were to become stars of the British Pop Art Scene. By his mid-20s, Hockney had already become one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary artists in Britain. At only 26 he had his first one-man show and in 1967 was awarded first prize in the John Moores Exhibition.
Hockney worked in a variety of fields as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, photographer and designer. As well as the versatility of his work, he is also known for his exuberant personality, easily recognisable with his trademark circular specs. Although he rejected the label ‘Pop’, much of his work contains references to popular
culture and contains a good deal of humour. The Californian swimming pool was one of his favourite subjects, indicating his love-affair with Los Angeles and most memorably featured in the painting ‘A Bigger Splash’ (1967). In the Seventies his style became more traditional with a series of portraits of couples such as ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ (1970-1971) and ‘My Parents’.
Hockney is also a celebrated graphic artist, etching illustrations to Cavafy’s Poems (1967) and Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1969) for example, as well as individual prints often on homoerotic themes. In the 1970s he became popular as a stage designer for productions such as Stravinsky’s ‘The Rake’s Progress’ (1975) and Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ (1978) both at Glyndebourne. Photography was Hockney’s main preoccupation in the 1980s, with his experimentation of complex, Cubist-like photomontages, but throughout his career painting remained his prime concern.
David Hockney has received great critical acclaim. From the representational nature of his more serious portraits to the depictions of the Californian landscape, his style is always distinctive and versatile. Picasso was one of Hockney’s role models in his demonstration of creative freedom and original thinking. In addition to his art, Hockney has also published two books on art, David Hockney on David Hockney (1976) and That’s the Way I See It (1993).