David Hockney is an English painter, printmaker, photographer, draughstman, and stage designer. His work is often associated with the development of British Pop art in the 1960s, but he is considered one of the most versatile and broadly influential British artists of the 20th century. He was born in Bradford, England, in 1937, and while studying at the Bradford School of Art, he befriended R.B. Kitaj, who encouraged Hockney to blend the modernist techniques he was learning with personal subject matter. Hockney began incorporating fragmentary lines of poetry into his paintings. Unlike other gay artists whom he would later befriend, Hockney was open about his sexuality and explored themes of homosexual love in works like We Two Boys Together Clinging of 1961 (homosexuality was not decriminalized in England until 1967). Formally, his early work owed much to 20th-century expressionist painters like Jean Dubuffet; a 1960 exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work at the Tate Gallery also made a major impact on his stylistic development. Hockney went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London, where he was awarded the gold medal for his year in 1962, despite having refused to write the essay component of his final examination (Hockney asserted that he should be judged on his work alone). By this time he had also completed A Rake’s Progress, a series of sixteen etchings based on William Hogarth’s visual narrative.
After graduating, Hockney visited Los Angeles and was inspired to paint suburban swimming pools, which he did using acrylic paint, rather than oil, for the first time. These paintings were based on photographic snapshots, and many of the paintings leave the original photographs’ white borders surrounding their central image, simultaneously allowing for a realistic representation of the world while also maintaining a decidedly modernist sensibility. Throughout the following decades, after relocating to Los Angeles in 1963, Hockney allowed his naturalistic style to outweigh his early concern with cultivating a modernist aesthetic. This lead to some of his most successful paintings, particularly in a series of double portraits of friends and acquaintances, which includes Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy of 1970–71. In 1970, too, Hockney had his first solo exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery.
Hockney’s technical curiosity and obsession with naturalism lead to many experiments with new technologies throughout this career. He produced a series of works using pulped paper in 1978 and later experimented with polaroid and 35mm photography. Applying 20th-century Cubism’s multiple viewpoints to the photographic medium, he created a series of works he called “joiners,” photographic collages where many photographs of one subject are composited to create a complete picture. These include landscapes, like Pearblossom Highway #2, and portraits, like My Mother, Bolton Abbey, 1982, both from 1982. Hockney also experimented with photocopiers and fax machines as tools for making pictures. Eventually, he was frustrated by what he perceived to be photography’s limitations and returned to painting later in the 1980s. Most recently, however, he has produced hundreds of paintings using applications on an iPhone and iPad. His fascination with technological methods for producing paintings is also evident in the 2001 television program Secret Knowledge, in which Hockney posited that the Old Master painters used camera obscura techniques to project images of their subjects onto their paintings’ surfaces, leading to the photographic quality of Renaissance painting.
Hockney has had solo exhibitions at London’s National Portrait Gallery and Royal Academy, Germany’s Kunsthalle Würth, and San Francisco’s de Young Museum, among others. Hockney's work is in the collections of numerous international institutions including London’s Tate Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum, Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Vienna’s MUMOK, and Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian American Art Museum. He currently splits his time between Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire; Kensington, London; and Los Angeles, California. Writer and photographer Christopher Simon Sykes penned a biography of Hockney titled David Hockney: A Rake’s Progress in 2012.