‘Most people feel that the world looks like the photograph,’ said Britain’s greatest living artist, David Hockney, in an interview with the art critic, Martin Gayford. ‘I’ve always assumed that the photograph is nearly right, but that that little by which it misses makes it miss by a mile. This is what I grope at.’ After the development of Conceptualism in the mid-20th century, the question of how we compress visual stimulus into two-dimensional representational pictures seemed to many artists an outdated concern. For Hockney, however, it would become the central tenet of his work. Over the last 60 years he has reinvigorated the role of the representational artist, exploring traditional artistic genres, from portraiture to landscapes, through such diverse mediums as photography, printmaking, painting and iPad drawing. In doing so, he has produced one of the most exuberant and multifarious bodies of work of his generation.
Hockney studied at the Bradford School of Art in the mid-1950s and London’s Royal College of Art, where contemporaries included other Pop Art luminaries such as R. B. Kitaj and Allen Jones. By the time he moved to California in 1964, he had already achieved international renown. Works such as A Bigger Splash (1967) and Beverly Hills Housewife (1966), which sold at Christie’s for $7,922,500 in 2009, were considered masterpieces of Pop. Hockney, however, disliked the label, and by the 1970s works such as Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1) saw him striking out on his own unique exploration of how to represent the observable world.
Hockney returned often to his native Yorkshire but settled there on a more permanent basis in 2005. More than any living artist, his work is marked by a sense of place, from the Yorkshire of his childhood — his 2005 return to the county saw him paint the countryside en plein air, with works such as The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven) — to the California of his earlier career, captured in seminal pieces such as the photo-collage, Pearblossom Highway, 11-18th April 1986 (1986).
In 2012 he accepted the Order of Merit, having turned down a knighthood in 1990.
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