“The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're an artist”.
One of the most influential painters of the 20th century and a pioneering figure of the British Pop Art movement, David Hockney remains one of the most iconic painters living and still creating today. Working across a range of media including painting, print, photography, stage design, video and digital media, Hockney’s oeuvre is characterised by a joyful radiance with bright pop colours being utilised to depict domestic and architectural landscapes, as well as portraits of friends and lovers. One of his best-known paintings is the canvas A Bigger Splash (1967), which depicts a swimming pool with a modernist house in the background, and remains one of the artist’s many artworks capturing the quintessential Californian suburban landscape.
Hockney was born in Yorkshire, England in 1937 to a working-class family. After attending the Bradford School of Art, he pursued his artistic education at London’s Royal College of Art and became loosely associated with the British pop art movement.
After his first solo exhibition at John Kasmin gallery in 1963, he travelled to Los Angeles in 1964, and continued to live between LA and London throughout both the 60s and 70s. He started producing acrylic paintings of the California landscape and architecture with baby blue skies, palm trees, modernist houses and swimming pools. Two iconic works, A Bigger Splash (1967) and Beverly Hills Housewife (1966–67) are from this period. Hockney is inspired by many elements of art history including the bold colours of pop art, the flatness of ancient Egyptian artwork and the balanced compositions of Renaissance painting. He often works from and with photographs, a famous example being a Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972). This marked the most expensive work by a living artist, selling for £70 million in 2018.
His over 300 portraits of friends and lovers - he was openly homosexual - include seminal pieces such as Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1971) and American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) (1968). Hockney has experimented with various print studios and techniques, including the lithograph editions, The Hollywood Collection (1965), etchings, like The Blue Guitar series (1977) as well as a unique medium involving liquid and hand-pressed paper, which resulted in works like Sunflower (1978).
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) organised his travelling retrospective in 1988, later hosted by the Met in New York and the Tate in London. He completed one of his most pivotal paintings, A Closer Grand Canyon, in the same year. In the coming years he had several large institutional exhibitions including a Bigger Picture (2013) at the Royal Academy in London, which then travelled to the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Ludwig Museum in Germany. In addition to this, David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition (2014) opened at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, followed by David Hockey (2017) at Tate Britain in London, which continued to travel onto the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Met in New York.
In recent years his work has focused increasingly on iPad drawings. The Royal Academy hosted the successful exhibition David Hockney - The Arrival of Spring in Normandy, in 2020, which displayed a series of colourful works that captured the spring season in Northern France. As one of the most established and top-selling British artists, Hockney’s joyous and hopeful artworks continue to inspire generations of artists.