One of the most widely
acclaimed of all living artists, Hockney's popularity is based on the enormous,
continuing appeal of his pictures and the popular perception of him as a
colorful extrovert. Hockney has worked in a wide variety of media including painting,
graphics, photography and theater design as well as a versatile selection of
subject matter ranging from famous portraits to landscapes of southern California.
Hockney was born in Yorkshire,
1937. Hockney first came to public prominence in the early sixties, as a
post-graduate student of painting at the Royal College of Art in London. He experimented
with numerous styles and became one of the most important portraitists of his
era, renowned for depictions of family and people he met in his extensive
travels. His work demonstrates a wish to uphold the human figure as a fit
subject of painting, as well as an interest in imagery drawn from the urban
environment. Despite his shouting 'I am not a Pop artist' during a private view
party in 1962, Hockney's student work is conventionally seen as contributing to
the development of Pop Art in Britain.
In 1964, Hockney moved to Los Angeles. In that year
a swimming pool first appeared in the seminal painting, The California
Collector, and Hockney continued to paint the subject passionately. In
these early water pictures, Hockney was influenced by the abstract,
interlocking puzzle-piece surface of Jean Dubuffet's work. Hockney's early pool
water was stylized in a flat, modern manner in which looping spaghetti like
lines complicate the notion of moving water. Over the next several years,
portraiture and photography primarily occupied the artist, and he developed an
intimate and powerful naturalism in this period.
Hockney abandoned painting for
a time in the mid-seventies to concentrate on drawing and print-making. Not
many paintings were produced during the early eighties either, the artist
preferring to spend his time constructing collages from photographs. These
photo-collages were recently exhibited in a retrospective of the artist's
photography at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Hockney's originality as a
printmaker was apparent by the time he produced A Rake's Progress, a
series of 16 etchings conceived as a contemporary and autobiographical version
of William Hogarth's visual narrative. Hockney's large body of graphic work,
concentrating on etching and lithography, in itself assured him an important
place in modern British art, and in series inspired by literary sources such as
Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy, Illustrations for
Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and The Blue Guitar, he did
much to revive the tradition of the livre d'artiste.