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“In art, new ways of seeing mean new ways of feeling; you can’t divorce the two, as, we are now aware, you cannot have time without space and space without time” – David Hockney
David Hockney is one of the most celebrated and popular British artists of the 20th century. He is also one of the most influential – his work has inspired artists including Chuck Close, Cecily Brown, and film director Martin Scorsese, and he has been a key factor in the revival of figurative painting.
Born in 1937, the world-renowned Pop artist continues to create and exhibit art to this day, as well as advocating for funding for the arts.
New York Giants chairman Steve Tisch and actor Steve Martin are among those who have chosen to invest in David Hockney art as part of their extensive collection.
David Hockney may hail from Bradford, but American movies were a huge influence on his early life. “I was brought up in Bradford and Hollywood,” he has often stated. In painting, Hockney credits Picasso, Matisse and Fragonard as influences on his own distinctive style.
Hockney studied art at the Bradford College of Art and later in London at the Royal College of Art. He was taught by several well-known artists including Roger de Grey and Ceri Richards and graduated with a gold medal in 1962. His circle of friends at the RCA included Peter Blake among other up-and-coming artists of the time.
Hockney travelled to Southern California for the first time in 1963 and quickly made Santa Monica his home, alternating living and working between Yorkshire and Los Angeles from then on. LA’s laid-back and sunny environment greatly influenced Hockney’s work, with his paintings featuring sculpted men, colourful southern California architecture and swimming pools. He soon became known for large, attention-grabbing works such as ‘A Bigger Splash’ (1967), purchased by the Tate in 1981.
Like other Pop artists, Hockney approached figurative painting in a style that referenced the visual language of advertising. However, he was unique in his obsession with Cubism, combining several scenes to create a composite view, and choosing tricky spaces like split-level Californian homes which offered already-challenging depth perception. In these acrylic canvases, Hockney developed the style for which he is best known. Flat planes lay side by side, confusing any sense of distance, and shadows appear to be erased.
Hockney’s expressionistic style evolved to a more realistic style over the years and he actively sought to imitate photographic effects in his work. He began creating photo collages which he called joiners, laying out Polaroid photos in a grid. Initially created as a reference while working on a painting, Hockney saw the collage as an art form in its own right, and began to create more.
By the mid 1970s he had all but abandoned painting in favour of projects involving photography, lithographs, and set and costume design for the ballet, opera and theatre.
Hockney later embraced technology as an artistic medium, first with prints using a photocopier in 1986 and more recently using the Brushes app on iPhones and iPads.
The marriage of art and technology became an ongoing fascination for Hockney, just as it did for Warhol and Opie. By embracing all kinds of technology and media, Hockney made his art accessible to people everywhere, as a form of human interaction and communication.
Hockney’s artworks are abstract yet personal, focusing on personal subject matter and picturing scenes from his life and that of his friends.
His works are held in the collections of Tate Britain, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.