David Hockney | 10 Facts About the Famous British Artist


David Hockney is renowned world over as one of the leading artists of the twentieth century. Considered a prominent figure in the history of British art, Hockney is also known as an important painter in the Pop Art Movement. Here are 10 interesting facts about the life and achievements of this versatile artist.


#1 He showed an early interest in art

Born on 9 July 1937, David Hockney was the fourth of five children of Laura and Kenneth Hockney. He showed an early inclination towards art and was an admirer of Picasso, Matisse and Fragonard. Hockney did his early education at Wellington Primary School and in 1948 he won a scholarship to the Bradford Grammar School. From 1953 to 1957, he attended the Bradford College of Art.

David Hockney with parents, Laura and Kenneth
David Hockney with parents, Laura and Kenneth, June 1967


#2 David Hockney was a conscientious objector

Hockney was a conscientious objector, i.e. he claimed his right to refuse to perform military service. So to fulfill his national service requirement he worked in hospitals for two years starting in 1957. It is interesting to note that David’s father Kenneth Hockney was also a conscientious objector during the Second World War.

David Hockney in 1963
David Hockney in 1963


#3 He drew a now famous satirical sketch when the RCA refused to award him his diploma

In 1959, Hockney entered the Royal College of Art in London. He did well as a student but refused to write an essay to clear the final examination wanting to be judged only on the basis of his artwork. Instead he created a satirical sketch titled The Diploma and made 50 copies of it. Some of the copies are held today by museums such as the Tate and the V&A. Recognizing his talent and growing reputation; the RCA changed its regulations and awarded the diploma.

The Diploma (1962)
The Diploma (1962) – David Hockney


#4 His painting A Bigger Splash is one of the most famous works in Pop Art

Hockney stayed in Los Angeles from 1964 to 1968. Here he created his famous series of paintings of swimming pools of L.A. The most famous among them is A Bigger Splash which depicts a splash in a swimming pool besides a modern house. This large painting is among the most iconic works of Pop Art and Hockney is considered an important contributor to the Pop Art movement.

A Bigger Splash by David Hockney
A Bigger Splash by David Hockney


#5 Hockney was a skilled photographer and created many famous photo collages

While working on a painting of a L.A. living room, Hockney took a series of photos for his own reference and fixed them together to form an image from which he could build his painting. However he realized that grouping was a form of art in itself and hence he started creating more. These photo collages, which he referred to as ‘joiners’, became one of the reasons behind his fame. Despite his success in photography, Hockney returned to painting in the late 1980s.

Robert Littman Floating in My Pool
Robert Littman Floating in My Pool – A Photo Collage by David Hockney


#6 He is not averse to taking the help of technology in his art

Hockney began incorporating technology in his work since the 1980s. In 1986, he created his first homemade prints on a photocopier. In the 1990s he started using fax machines and laser printers. From 2009 to date, Hockney has painted hundreds of portraits, still lifes and landscapes using the Brushes app on iPhones and iPads and often sends them to his friends.


#7 David Hockney is openly gay

Hockney has made no attempts to keep his homosexuality a secret. It is well known that he has had relationships with men. He is explored the nature of gay love in his art. His 1961 painting We Two Boys Together Clinging, which shares its title with a poem written by Walt Whitman, refers to his love for men. Several other popular paintings by him including Domestic Scene, Los Angeles explore homosexuality.

Domestic Scene, Los Angeles (1963)
Domestic Scene, Los Angeles (1963) – David Hockney


#8 Along with Charles Falco, he put forward the Hockney–Falco thesis in art

David Hockney and Charles M. Falco have put forward the Hockney–Falco thesis. It claims that advances in realistic and accurate depiction in Western art since the Renaissance was primarily the result of optical aids such as the camera obscura, camera lucida, and curved mirrors arguing that accuracy in the works is impossible to achieve by “eyeballing it”. Hockney’s 2001 book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters is based on this thesis. It has led to heated debates among artists, art historians and scholars.

Secret Knowledge by David Hockney
Secret Knowledge by David Hockney


#9 He is known for his versatility

Hockney is known as a versatile artist. He has made his name in portraiture, still lifes, landscapes, pop art, expressionist art and cubism. He has proved his versatility in other areas as well. Apart from being a renowned photographer, he has published an extensive number of books and screenplays, worked as a set and costume stage designer, and has made numerous television and film appearances.

The Road Across the Wolds (1997) by Hockney
The Road Across the Wolds (1997) – A landscape painting by Hockney


#10 David Hockney was voted Britain’s most influential artist of all time

In 2009, Hockney’s painting Beverly Hills Housewife was sold for around $8 million, which remains a record for his artwork. For his photography, he was awarded the Infinity Award in 1985 and the prestigious The Royal Photographic Society’s Progress medal in 1988. In 1990, Hockney was offered a knighthood but he declined. In January 2012 he accepted the Order of Merit. In 2011, in a poll of more than 1,000 British artists, Hockney was voted the most influential British artist of all time.

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