David Hockney

“It’s difficult to say why I decided I wanted to be an artist. Obviously I
had some facility, more than other people, but sometimes facility comes because
one is more interested in looking at things, examining them and making a
representation of them, more interested in the visual world than other people
are. When I was eleven, the only art you saw in a town like Bradford was the
art of painting posters and signs. This was how one made one’s living as an
artist, I thought.”(1)

Hockney attended the School of Art in Bradford and later the Royal College of
Art in London. In his second year at the Bradford school, he sent a painting he
had made of his father to a local exhibition. He went to the opening (they had
free tea and sandwiches) and was “amazed” when a man offered him ten
pounds for the painting. He checked with his father, since the canvas was his,
who said, “sure you can always do another.” It was a sign of things
to come. Hockney seems never to have suffered the “struggling,
unrecognized” fate of so many other famous artists.

Unlike others who painted mainly women, Hockney, for the most part, painted
men. It was at the Royal College that he felt comfortable enough with the
people around him to come out and be openly homosexual. After winning a prize
of what was to him a fortune of 100 pounds, he left Britain for New York partly
because of an attraction to men he had seen in American publications. He
continued to paint and sell paintings while living in New York. Much later, in
Los Angeles, he met a 19-year old art student, Peter Schlesinger, with whom
Hockney had his only long-term relationship and who appears in many of his

Hockney taught at several prestigious universities in the United States until
he decided to “retire” from teaching. He is well known for his LA
paintings with their bright light, often depicting the ubiquitous California
swimming pool, frequently with men, swimming in them. He has also dabbled extensively
in photography. Hockney now has homes in at least three cities, i.e. London,
Paris and Los Angeles. He has traveled and painted in several other countries
including Egypt and Europe.

Hockney presently comes across as an eccentric, with his dyed thatch blond
hair, his striped shirts and polka dot bow ties. The other instantly noticeable
feature is his (still strong) Yorkshire accent. While he has at times been
accused of creating an image to draw attention to himself, thus helping to
create his success, Hockney certainly could have abandoned this persona after
achieving success had it not been genuine. David Hockney is the most successful
British artist of the 20th and, so far, of the 21st
century. He has been the subject of many interviews, a feature film, called Bigger
and has sold works of art for millions of dollars.