Hockney, David

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Hockney, David

David Hockney, 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 subjects include still lifes, portraits, and aspects of gay life. From his earliest days, he has also experimented with technology as an art medium, using fax machines, photocopiers, and the like. Much of Hockney's work is informed by his long-time 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 their 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 2005 Hockney returned to his native Yorkshire where he painted large colorful local landscapes, often creating one or more paintings a day, and he also continued experimenting with digital technology, e.g., creating printed computer portrait drawings and painting with smartphone and computer tablet software.

See his autobiographies (1976, 1993), ed. by N. Stangos; Hockney on Photography: Conversations with Paul Joyce (1988); biography by C. S. Sykes (Vol. I, 2012); G. Evans, ed, Hockney's Pictures: The Definitive Retrospective (2004); 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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