David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England, to Laura and Kenneth Hockney. David Hockney was always considered an eccentric in Bradford. He never really cared what people thought of him and always did as he pleased. He spent afternoons at Sunday School drawing cartoons of Jesus, much to his teachers’ dismay. As a young child, Hockney also developed an obsession with opera when he first saw the Carl Rosa opera company’s production of La Bohème.
In 1948, David Hockney won a scholarship to the Bradford Grammar School, one of the best schools in the country. Here he enjoyed his art classes most and thus decided that he wanted to become an artist. In 1950, he asked to be transferred to the Regional College of Art in Bradford so that he could more seriously pursue his interest. However, the headmaster recommended that he first finish his general education before transferring anywhere. Hockney responded with misfit behavior towards his teachers and poor grades, even though he had found much success in school before this. He spent his class time doodling in notebooks. Nonetheless, his artistic leanings also won him prizes and recognition, and he drew comics for the school newspaper.
In 1953, Hockney finally enrolled in the College of Art and began painting with oils, his medium of choice for most of his life. Hockney learned that painting was a process of seeing and thinking, rather than one of imitation. He developed a penchant for painting mirrors and loved the artwork of painters such as Francis Bacon and other contemporaries. In the summer of 1957, Hockney took the National Diploma in Design Examination. He graduated with honors and then enrolled in the Painting School of the Royal College in London two years later, where and when he would gain national attention as an artist.
Hockney immediately felt at home at the Royal College. There were no steadfast rules or regulations. During his first term, he experimented with more abstract styles, but he felt unsatisfied with that work, and he still sought his own style. His professors were good and receptive to his artwork, but Hockney seemed to learn the most from his fellow students who shared similar artistic interests and insights.
In the summer of 1961, Hockney travelled to New York for the first time. He was able to work on other paintings and sketches while he was there at the Pratt Institute’s facilities. It was from his New York sketchbooks that Hockney came up with the idea for an updated version of William Hogarth’s “Rake’s Progress,” which he eventually finished two years later. Hockney was offered five thousand pounds for the plates and thus was able to live in America for a year at the end of 1963. In the mean time, he finished his studies at the Royal College and received considerable attention from critics, professors, and peers at several student shows. At this time early on in Hockney’s career, his artwork was poetic and tended to tell stories. He even wrote poetic ramblings on many of his paintings as well.
In New York, Hockney befriended Andy Warhol, at whose studio young artists often met and socialized.
In the summer of 1964, Hockney was invited to teach at the University of Iowa. He was generally bored with this new milieu but was able to complete four paintings in six weeks there. At the same time, Hockney hosted his first American exhibition in New York. He received rave reviews and sold every painting.
For many years after that, Hockney remained content painting and showcasing his work at various exhibits. His work had gained much esteem and attention all over the world. Critics instantly recognized the power of his art.
In the eighties, Hockney turned to photo collage. Using a Polaroid camera, Hockney would assemble collages of photos that he would take as quickly as possible. Hockney was fascinated with the idea of seeing things through a window frame. This medium allowed him to see things in a whole new fashion. His artwork also began to take on a psychological dimension. In the autumn of 1983, Hockney began a series of self-portraits, allowing the public to enter his personal inner life. It is obvious in these works that Hockney was quite vulnerable and unsure of himself, even though he had achieved major success in his life as an artist.
In the nineties, Hockney continued to experiment with rising technologies. He used a color laser copier in some of his works and reproduced some of his paintings. Hockney was impressed with the vibrancy of color that could be achieved using such devices. He also began sending drawings to friends via fax machines and was thrilled with this new way of communication.