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Hockney, David


TIMELINE: Pop Art

Hockney, David (1937- ). British painter, draughtsman, printmaker, photographer, and designer. After a brilliant prize-winning career as a student at the Royal College of Art, Hockney had achieved international success by the time he was in his mid-20s, and has since consolidated his position as by far the best-known British artist of his generation. His phenomenal success has been based not only on the flair, wit, and versatility of his work, but also on his colorful personality, which has made him a recognizable figure even to people not particularly interested in art: a film about him entitled A Bigger Splash (1974) enjoyed considerable popularity in the commercial cinema.

His early paintings, often almost jokey in mood, gained him a reputation of leading Pop artist, although he himself rejected the label. In the late 1960s he turned to a weightier, more traditionally representational manner, in which he has painted some striking portraits (Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, Tate, London, 1970-01). He has spent much of his time in the USA, and the Californian swimming pool has been one of his favourite themes (A Bigger Splash, Tate, 1967). Often his work has a strong homo-erotic content. Hockney is a brilliant draughtsman and has been as outstanding as a graphic artist as he has as a painter, his work in this field including etched illustrations to Cavafy's Poems (1967) and Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1969). In the 1970s he came to the fore also as a stage designer, notably with his set and costume designs for Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress and Mozart's The Magic Flute produced at Glyndebourne in 1975 and 1978 respectively. The broader style demanded by stage design is reflected in his most recent easel paintings. In the 1980s he has experimented much with photography, producing, for example, photographic collages and -- since 1986 -- prints created on photocopiers. Hockney is a perceptive commentator on art and in 1976 published a book on his own work, David Hockney by David Hockney.

Technically, it is true to say that the Pop movement started with Richard Hamilton and David Hockney in England. Hockney's early work made superb use of the popular magazine-style images on which much of Pop Art is based. However, when Hockney moved to California in the 1960s, he responded with such artistic depth to the sea, sun, sky, young men, and luxury that his art took on a wholly new, increasingly naturalistic dimension. Though one might consider A Bigger Splash a simplistic rather than a simplified view of the world, it nevertheless creates a delightful interplay between the stolid pink verticals of a Los Angeles setting and the exuberance of spray as the unseen diver enters the pool. There is no visible human presence here, just that lonely, empty chair and a bare, almost frozen world. Yet that wild white splash can only come from another human, and a great deal of Hockney's psyche is involved in the mix of lucidity and confusion of this picture.


14 Jul 2002, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info
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