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5 Facts About David Hockney
A closer look 21 Nov 2018

5 Facts About David Hockney

David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife
David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife

2017 was the year of David Hockney. The internationally-recognized British artist celebrates his 80th birthday this year. This occasion has prompted a major retrospective in three temples of modern art: the Tate, the Pompidou Centre and the Met. Before you discover his lifetime’s work this summer, Artsper presents the 5 things you should know about David Hockney.

Key Moments in Hockney’s Career:

  • 1937: David Hockney is born 
  • 1959-62: He studies at the Royal College of Art, London. 
  • 1960-61: He executes Doll Boy and other love paintings. 
  • 1963: His first solo exhibition is held at John Kasmin, London. 
  • 1964: Hockney moves to Los Angeles and creates his first iconic swimming pool paintings. 
  • 1988-1989: After an excursion to directing and other art forms, Hockney returns to painting; focussing on seascapes, seascapes, potted flowers and portraits of his family and friends. 
  • 1997: Exhibits his flower paintings in London and was included in the Birthday Honors List of the Queen. 
  • 2009: He starts to experiment with drawing on his iPhone and iPad. 
  • 2020: The first major retrospective of his work in more than 20 years opens at the National Portrait Gallery. 

1. He paints intimate works

Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures), 1972 ©David Hockney

David Hockney draws his inspiration from the deepest recesses of his inner self. His experiences, feelings and emotions are laid bare on the canvas. In the 1960s, after he moved to Los Angeles, he fell in love with one of his drawing students. Portrait of an artist (Pool with two figures) is an expression of the amorous disappointment stemming from this tumultuous relationship, even years after its end. Hockney depicts a lover with an impassive look, signaling the collapse of the romantic idyll. But David Hockney is more than just his love life. He paints his parents, revealing their personality, the landscapes of his childhood, his friends, and the empty chairs of lost loved ones…

2. He rejects avant-garde and conceptual art

Garrowby Hill, 1998 ©David Hockney

An important 20th century artist, over the years David Hockney has found himself on the fringes of several major trends. Madly in love with drawing and painting, and passionate about figurative art, he rejected conceptualism. He turned his attention to the subjects neglected by the other artists of his generation such as landscapes and depicted them with a modernity unique to him: “When they say the landscape genre has been done, that is impossible. You can’t be tired of nature,” says the artist. Inspired by Van Gogh, Picasso, Dubuffet and Matisse, he departed from classical perspectives and developed a colourful palette.

3. More than just a painter

Pearlblossom Highway
Pearlblossom Highway, 1986 © David Hockney

Despite his claimed predilection for painting, David Hockney has also explored other artistic avenues. His photographic collages, the “joiners”, go beyond his apprehension towards photography, which for him “cannot give the sensation of space”. The photographic collage allows him to alter the perspective and create a multi-focal vision. In 2011, he also created an immersive video installation, “Four seasons”, in which he witnesses the evolution of nature. Painting, photography, video, David Hockney tirelessly proposes a different perception of space.

4. A painter 2.0

IPad drawing lilies, 2010
iPad drawing lilies, 2010

With a predilection for figurative painting and a love for landscapes, David Hockney rejects the idea that nature is dead. The artist also stresses the failings of photography and cinema, such as their inseparability from technology. However, his vision is not without its contradictions. He loves drawing using his Ipad and Iphone! A medium he has been making use of since 2008, allowing him to explore other forms of representation.

5. He carries considerable weight in the art market

David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife
David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife

At 80 years old, David Hockney is one of the richest living artists, alongside Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. According to an estimate from 2013, his works have fetched at least 40 million euros. They are snapped up at auctions, with his Beverly Hills Housewife canvas reaching a record 7.9 million euros in 2009.

BONUS: He posed for Lucian Freud, and Freud for him

Peintures de Lucian Freud
Left: David Hockney, Lucian Freud with his assistant, 2003
Right: Lucian Freud, David Hockney, 2002

It is a friendship that the two greatest contemporary painters of the United Kingdom have put on canvas. Lucian Freud and David Hockney spent three months together in 2003, during which they decided to paint each other. In particular, Hockney wanted to observe the technique of Lucian Freud, then the most highly rated painter in the world. We can say that he was not disappointed: he posed for the master for nearly 120 hours! For his part, he spent only four hours representing the painter alongside his assistant.

BONUS: He loves cigarettes and his dachshunds

Portrait of stanley by david hockney
Portrait of Stanley ©David Hockney

Every artist has their obsessions, and David Hockney is no exception; he cannot go without his dachshunds and his cigarettes. David, Stanley and Boodgie are inseparable, and he never misses a chance to use the dogs as models. So much so that the works dedicated to them have been collected in a special volume! Cigarettes are his other addiction. A great opponent of anti-smoking laws, the artist admits to smoking for the sake of his “mental health”, with a stock of 2000 cigarettes in his California studio.

Important Hockney Exhibitions:

  • 1962: First solo exhibition, Pictures with People, is held at John Kasmin, London 
  • 1970: Retrospective at Whitechapel opens. 
  • 1974: Solo exhibition at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris. 
  • 1988: Retrospective at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • 1996: Retrospective mounted in Manchester
  • 1999: Opens three exhibitions in Paris
  • 2001: Opens his traveling photography retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. 
  • 2012: His exhibition David Hockney: A bigger Picture opens at the Royal Academy of Arts.
  • 2019: Presents landscapes from throughout his career in dialogue with 11 works by Van Gogh for the exhibition Hockney–Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature 
  • 2022: Opens  Hockney’s Eye: The Art and Technology of Depiction at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 

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