born on July 9, 1937 in Bradford, England
David Hockney, who has lived in Los Angeles since 1979, is the most important English artist living today. The central theme of his paintings and prints is space: from the intimate close-up views of his early nudes to the broad panorama views of his monumental pictures of the Grand Canyon, executed in late nineties.
In a similar way, Hockney also investigates the temporal dimension of painting in all its extremes: from the momentary nature of a splash of water left behind by a bather after diving into the pool, to the meditative tranquillity and duration of a precisely composed still-life.
In the sixties, David Hockney was among the leading members of the Pop Art movement. It was not until 2001, however, that one of his characteristic "Swimming Pool" paintings achieved the remarkable price of $ 550,000 (Stanley Seeger Collection) at Sotheby's in New York.
How did it all begin?
David decides at the young age of eleven to become an artist. In his hometown of Bradford, he attends grammar school and later studies at the Bradford School of Art from 1953 to 1957, when he received the National Diploma of Design. The training is traditional and his courses include anatomy, perspective and drawing from the nude.
Hockney creates his first oil paintings and colour lithographs and, in 1957, is confronted with abstract painting for the first time at an exhibition of the works of Alan Davie in Wakefield. In 1959, after doing alternative service in hospitals in Bradford and Hastings, he is accepted into the Royal College of Art in London, where he studies together with Ron B. Kitaj, Allan Jones, Peter Phillips, Derek Boshier and Patrick Caulfield.
In 1960, Hockney begins the series of "Vegetarian Propaganda Paintings" (now lost) and the "Homosexual Propaganda Paintings". "My paintings at the Royal College were about fantasies, my own fantasies. They had absolutely nothing to do with what we actually saw", the artist states later (1977). Since he doesn't have enough money for canvas at the time, in 1961 Hockney begins to experiment with etchings.
At around the same time, David Hockney makes his first trip to the United States - to New York. William Lieberman buys two of his etchings for the Museum of Modern Art and assists the artist with other sales.
Hockney travels to Los Angeles and rents a small studio in Santa Monica. "Man Taking a Shower in Beverly Hills" is his first painting in acrylic. "In 1965 or 1966, I began to paint California in California the way it actually appeared to me."
In 1968, he paints the first large-scale double-portraits: "American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)" and "Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy". In November, Hockney has a solo exhibition at the André Emmerich Gallery in New York. The art critic Clement Greenberg judges: "This is no art for a serious gallery."
In the spring of 1973, Hockney moves to Paris, where he lives first in the Rue des Beaux-Arts and later in an apartment in the Quartier Latin, which once belonged to the painter Balthus. His main interest at the time is in drawing and etching.
It isn't until 1974, after a ten year interruption, that he begins painting again. Numerous exhibitions follow, including the retrospective at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the retrospective of his prints at the Louisiana Museum in Humlebæk, and the participation in the "Documenta VI" in Kassel.
Hockney and his artist friend Kitaj discuss the dilemma that the contemporary art world neglects the figurative tradition and favours abstraction and conceptual art. They write an essay, which is published in 1977 in "The New Review".
He stays for several weeks in New York to test new printing techniques. The result of this is the series of "Paper Pools", for which he uses dyed and pressed paper pulp. "The highly structured surfaces (of these works) would change his approach to painting" (M. Friedman, 1983).
With the group exhibition "A New Spirit in Painting" in 1981, the Royal Academy of Arts in London manifests the revival of figurative painting and also exhibits four new paintings by David Hockney. The first monograph, written by Marco Livingstone, is published.
In 1982, Hockney purchases a house in Hollywood Hills. He paints the outer walls red and blue and covers the bottom of the swimming pool with blue "French marks". Hockney pursues his studies of the human figure with the medium of the photo-collage.
In the offset lithographs "Moving Focus Prints" from 1983, he applies the knowledge gained from his work with photography to printmaking. "A few people have remarked that, since about 1980, the human figure has been missing in my work. The main reason for this is that I wanted to make the viewer the figure."
Hockney creates subtle drawings and masterly prints, in which, in some cases, he combines varying printing techniques. He is also active in stage design and photography. In 1998, the Englishman is awarded the Prize of the German Society for Photography.
Time and again, the artist longs for the isolation of his small house in Malibu Beach. He paints the ocean. "The waves come right up to my window. Once again I am aware of an enormous space. The house is small, with very comfortable rooms, and outside is infinity."
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
1970 First retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
1988 Retrospective in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London.
1995 Retrospective of the drawings at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
1998 David Hockney. Retrospektive Photoworks. Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Further venues: Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles, the Kunsthalle Krems in Lower Austria. Catalogue, Edition Braus.
1999 David Hockney. Espace / paysage. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
2001 David Hockney. Exciting Times Are Ahead. Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublic Deutschland, Bonn.
David Hockney's book, "Secret Knowledge", on the role of optical aids in the history of pictorial representation, was published in the autumn of 2001. Further editions in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and German are planned.