David Hockney is an English painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer. The fourth of five children, he was born in Bradford in 1937, educated at Bradford Grammar School and graduated from the Bradford School of Art in 1957. From there he went on to the Royal College of Art where he featured in the 1961 Young Contemporaries exhibition which announced the arrival of the British Pop art movement.
During the 1960s Hockney focused on portraits of friends, lovers and relatives. In these paintings he tended to imply his own presence by converging lines of perspective and suggesting an artist’s point of view. A visit to California in 1964 inspired Hockney to use the comparatively new medium of acrylic in a series of paintings of swimming pools – rendering images in a highly realistic style and flat, smooth, vibrant colour.
Hockney settled in California in 1978, renting the house which he would later buy and expand to include his studio. In the early 1980s Hockney began to produce photo collages using Polaroid prints. The creation of these ‘joiners’ occurred accidentally. As part of his preparatory work for painting a living room and terrace in Los Angeles, Hockney took a series of Polaroid shots. Not intending them to be a composition in their own right, he then glued them together and realised he had created a narrative: as if the viewer was moving through the room. Because the photographs are taken from different perspectives at slightly different times, the resulting work has a, perhaps deliberate, affinity with Cubism.
During the 1990s Hockney returned more frequently to Yorkshire and to painting. Encouraged by an old friend, he decided to capture his surroundings. At first he did this through work based on boyhood memories, but by 2005 was painting the countryside as he now saw it. Setting up residence in an immense redbrick studio in the seaside town of Bridlington, he produced a series of huge oil paintings based on intensive studies in watercolour. The oils were made up of multiple smaller canvases – up to 15 or more – placed together to create one huge image. In April 2012 The Royal Academy presented A Bigger Picture, made up of more than 150 works, many of which took up entire walls in the gallery, while round 50 of these images were created using painting applications on an iPad.
Hockney has been the subject of countless solo exhibitions worldwide, including major retrospectives at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London. In 2006 the National Portrait Gallery organised one of the largest ever displays of Hockney’s portraiture including 150 paintings, drawings, prints, sketchbooks, and photocollages from over five decades. In 2017, to commemorate Hockney’s 80th birthday, Tate Britain held a major retrospective while a new permanent collection of his work opened in The David Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall, Bradford.