Hockney, David

Hockney, David, 1937–, English painter, studied Royal College of Art. Moving from a distorted, semiexpressionist form of pop art, Hockney developed a highly personal realistic style, producing images saturated with color that are witty, uniquely in the moment, and often openly homoerotic. His customary early subjects included still lifes, portraits, and aspects of gay life, as well as the self-portraits and portraits of important people in his life, e.g., his “muse,” textile designer Celia Birtwell, that he continued to do throughout his career. From his earliest days he also has experimented with technology as an art medium, using fax machines, photocopiers, and the like. Much of Hockney's work is informed by his residence (1978–2005) in Southern California, for instance his many joyous paintings of swimmers in undulating, light-struck, turquoise-hued pools. His superb draftsmanship is evident in his drawings, paintings, illustrated books, and several series of prints, notably The Rake's Progress (1961–63). Hockney is also known for his photographs, his mosaiclike photomontages, and his imaginative stage sets for ballets and operas.

Later in his career Hockney became interested in the historical relationship between representational painters and optical devices. In Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters (2001, rev. ed. 2006) and elsewhere he asserted that from about 1430 to 1860 many painters in the Western tradition used innovations in visual technology such as lenses, mirrors, the camera obscura, and the camera lucida to produce strikingly realistic effects. He also maintained that after the invention (1839) of daguerreotype photography, artists began to search for and capture a new visual truth not found in photographs, and the beginnings of modernism were born.

In the 21st cent. Hockney has spent more time in his native Yorkshire, where he has painted large, colorful local landscapes, e.g., The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011, often creating one or more paintings a day, and sometimes creating mural-sized works. Inspired by Van Gogh's vibrant landscapes, he has produced these works on canvas and using still and video cameras and the iPad. Other works, inspired by Russian art historian and mathematician Pavel Florensky's writings, explore “reverse perspective,” in which the spatial viewpoint is distorted and shifting; many are irregularly shaped.

See his A History of Pictures (2016, with M. Gaylord); Hockney on Photography: Conversations with Paul Joyce (1988) and M. Gaylord, ed., A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney (rev. ed. 2016); G. Evans, ed., Hockney's Pictures: The Definitive Retrospective (2004), M. Livingstone et al., David Hockney: A Bigger Picture (2012), and David Hockney: A Bigger Book (2016); autobiographies (1976, 1993), ed. by N. Stangos; biography by C. S. Sykes (2 vol., 2011–14); studies by M. Livingstone (1981, enl. ed. 1996), P. Webb (1988), K. E. Silver (1994), P. Clothier (1995), P. Melia, ed. (1995); and P. Melia and U. Luckhardt (2006).

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