For more than six decades, David Hockney has interrogated how we see the world. Few artists have rivalled the breadth and depth of his practice. Working across painting, drawing, prints, photography, collage, set design and digital media, he has produced one of the past century's most extraordinary theses on the nature of human vision.
Hockney studied at Bradford School of Art and London’s Royal College of Art. There, his contemporaries included early Pop Art pioneers such as R. B. Kitaj and Allen Jones. In 1964, Hockney moved to California, inspired by the region’s light, colour and landscape. His swimming pool paintings, including A Bigger Splash (1967), earned him international acclaim.
Back in London in 1968, Hockney embarked upon his landmark suite of double portraits. Paintings from this series represent his top auction prices. Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) sold for £37,661,248 at Christie’s London in 2019. The previous year, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) realised $90,312,496 at Christie’s New York, setting a new world record for the artist. The work represents Hockney’s farewell to his first great love and muse, Peter Schlesinger. Sur la Terrasse (1971), a portrait painted on the brink of their break-up, sold for $29,501,250 at Christie’s New York in 2019.
Much of Hockney's work has concerned the role of the camera. His photo-collages — such as his 1986 depiction of Pearblossom Highway — shed new light upon the mechanics of sight. Inspired by Cubism and Chinese scroll paintings, Hockney proposed that we do not see the world in single snapshots. Instead, we stitch together many simultaneous viewpoints. He would continue to explore these ideas in his 2001 book Secret Knowledge.
Hockney's landscape paintings, in turn, grew ever-more ambitious. After returning to California in 1978, he painted major works such as Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio (1980) and vast depictions of the Grand Canyon. In 2005, he returned to his native Yorkshire, where he started to paint en plein air. His diary of the changing seasons culminated in the 32-canvas masterpiece The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011. During the COVID-19 pandemic he turned his attention to the landscape surrounding his house in Normandy.
Though deeply inspired by his forebears — from Claude Monet and Henri Matisse to Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh — Hockney has always looked forwards. His exploration of media such as video, the iPad and 3D photographic drawing continue to write new chapters for the future. Restlessly pushing the boundaries of image-making, he remains one of the greatest living artists of his generation.
The Bell Tower, from: Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm