Daydreaming with David Hockney

One of the most expensive living artists of the 21st century – do you know who we are referring to? No, it is not Jeff Koons this time. David Hockney! Colourful, vibrant, joyful, warm… how else could we describe his paintings? 

Hockney was born in Bradford (Yorkshire, UK) in 1937 and showed a fascination for art from an early age. His parents always encouraged him to explore his creativity, which proved to shape most of his life ethos. Hockney is and always was a daydreamer. He is passionate about seasons, landscapes, swimming pools, portraiture, photography and the ordinary. Growing up in gloomy and rainy England did not affect his vibrant way of looking at life. Still, he quickly fell in love with sunny Los Angeles after a visit in 1961. This visit was impactful in his body of work and seemed to fulfil what England could not offer him: bright, warm all-year-round sunny days. More than a weather preference, Hockney enjoyed the duality and versatility of moods and aesthetics each place provided him. 

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Before moving to Los Angeles permanently in 1964, his body of work was a lot darker than it is now. We are unsure if it was an English weather influence or just an artist finding his own voice within the art world. However, Hockney's paintings from the '50s were very portraiture and still-life focused, but instead of the light, energetic colours, he was using browner-reddish tones. This was a period of pure experimentation. The way he attempts to work with varying brushstroke techniques demonstrates an evident influence from artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Bacon and Rauschenberg. Although highly influenced by Cubism and Expressionist movements, Hockney succeeded with the rise of the Pop-Art movement.

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After he moved to Los Angeles, his aesthetic and technique became a lot more defined and mature. During this period, Hockney started, almost compulsively, painting swimming pools. This was his everyday landscape, so he did not hold back trying to capture Hollywood’s lush and sleek vibe.  Furthermore, a significant feature of this period and his whole career is his focus on perspective and spatial deconstruction. Hockney was interested in understanding why the old masters' paintings were still so striking today. With this finding, Hockney started using linear perspective and then its reverse by deconstructing it, allowing him to stand out from the crowd of figurative and pop-artists. 

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Despite the innovative painting techniques, what makes a Hockney a Hockney is much more than his refined art knowledge. Hockney's body of work primes for its subject. As mentioned earlier, Hockney is a daydreamer, and he spends most of his time observing the world around him- even today! This is something that all his artworks have in common.

"The world is very, very beautiful if you look at it. But most people don't look very much. They scan the ground in front of them so they can walk, but they don't really look at things incredibly well, with intensity. I do, and I've always known that."

-      David Hockney Interview: The World is Beautiful

David Hockney landscapes are one of his most remarkable works. He uses the almost cliché images of the disappearing roads amidst the woods to create these magic pictures of a somewhat distant but well-known place. Hockney's paintings force the viewer to see what they have been missing: the wonders of the mundane and the everyday life by both urging us to slow down at the view and speed up with the dynamic and speedy brushstrokes. Hockney is a master at capturing banality. It may be true or not, but what makes Hockney so successful are his dreamy and down to earth narratives. Especially for his British fans, he can genuinely make a British landscape look a lot more enjoyable and livelier than it is sometimes perceived to be. 

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Hockney's artistic practice has changed and evolved throughout time. However, he is and will be hugely important for art history today and for many, many years to come.  Hockney has proved to be as important as the old masters. Maybe his theory about the linear perspective was right after all.  

David Hockney has multiple shows coming up this year. We want to highlight his major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. “David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020” is opening on the 23rd of May and it will display over 116 new works created on his iPad over the pandemic. 

If you are around the USA, there are two shows that you might want to have a look too. “David Hockney: Drawing from Life” at The Morgan Library Museum (closing on the 30th of May 2021) and “Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature” at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (closing on 20th of June 2021).


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Comments (4)
    • It is really interesting to see how a place can "drastically" influence the way an artist produces work and see the world

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      • Yeah! His newest digital work is inspired by his stay in Normandy, have you seen? 

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      • Loved to see Hockney vs. Picasso comparison. We can really see Hockney artistic journey towards discovering his own style 

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        • Agree! And what a successful journey!

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