One of the most widely acclaimed of all living artists, Hockney's popularity is based on the enormous, continuing appeal of his pictures and the popular perception of him as a colorful extrovert. He has worked in a wide variety of media including painting, graphics, photography and theater design, as well as a versatile selection of subject matter ranging from famous portraits to the landscape of southern California.
Hockney was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1937. He first came to public prominence in the early sixties as a post-graduate student of painting at the Royal College of Art in London. Experimenting with numerous styles, Hockney became one of the most important portraitists of the era, renowned for his depictions of family and the people he met during his extensive travels. Hockney’s work demonstrates a wish to uphold the human figure as a fit subject of painting, as well as his interest in imagery drawn from the urban environment. Despite his shouting 'I am not a Pop artist' during a private view party in 1962, his student work is conventionally seen as contributing to the development of Pop Art in Britain.
In 1964, Hockney moved to Los Angeles. In that year a swimming pool first appeared in the seminal painting, The California Collector, and Hockney continued to paint the subject passionately. In these early water pictures, Hockney was influenced by the abstract, interlocking puzzle-piece surface of Jean Dubuffet's work. Hockney's early pool water was stylized in a flat, modern manner in which looping, spaghetti-like lines complicate the notion of moving water. Over the next several years, portraiture and photography primarily occupied the artist, and Hockney developed an intimate and powerful naturalism throughout this period.
Hockney briefly abandoned painting in the mid-seventies to concentrate on drawing and print-making. Not many paintings were produced during the early eighties either, the artist preferring to spend his time constructing collages from photographs. These photo-collages were recently exhibited in a retrospective of the artist's photography at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Hockney's originality as a printmaker was apparent by the time he produced A Rake's Progress, a series of 16 etchings conceived as a contemporary and autobiographical version of William Hogarth's visual narrative. His large body of graphic work, concentrating on etching and lithography, in itself assured him an important place in modern British art, and in series inspired by literary sources such as Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy, Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and The Blue Guitar, Hockney did much to revive the tradition of the livre d'artiste.