From a young age, David Hockney knew he would be an artist. Stained glass artisan and childhood neighbor Jude Tarrant recalls that her formative memory of Hockney was him pushing a pram filled with art materials around the city of Bradford. In 1953, he began training at the local art school, all the while resisting attempts to turn him into a commercial artist and instead putting effort into creating his own style. The result was that as an adult, he became—and is currently still—one of the most famous and lauded visual artists in England.
Here are some things you need to know about him to answer the question: who is David Hockney?
His renowned art
There's no corner of the art world David Hockney fears exploring. Up until the '70s, he tried out printmaking and crafted lithographs that depicted fairytales, Hollywood, and other subjects he was fascinated by. In the '80s, he developed a love for Polaroids. His experiments resulted in the creation of joiners—photomontages set on a grid that subtly hint at a subject's movement and versatility. He also did stage design for plays like The Rake's Progress, The Magic Flute, and the Stravinsky Triple Bill. Then, of course, there's his portraiture. A lifelong lover and maker of paintings, Hockney often paired his cubism-inspired, vibrant approach with tender subjects. This style uplifted him as a pioneering LGBTQ artist unafraid of depicting the gentle, intimate sides of the queer experience.
Hockney's most recent art experiments are technology-related. In 2020, he began drawing on his iPad daily, producing a stunning collection that documented the arrival of springin his Normandy residence. Even more recently, he presented a yearlong chronicle of the seasons inspired by medieval embroidery. At 86 years young, Hockney is still more than ready to embark on more artistic adventures.
His iconic fashion style
David Hockney is a person one can instantly tell is an artist. His wardrobe comprises preppy layers of slacks, button-ups, and cardigans whose characteristic formality is undercut by the bright patterns and colors Hockney favors. Much like the subjects of his artwork, Hockney likes to pop out of the scene via a carefully formulated explosion of hues.
Aside from his striking clothing, Hockney also has a fondness for distinctive accessories. He's been seen with a polka-dot bow, a whimsical necktie, and a lavish pocket square—but his most consistent embellishment has been a pair of spectacles. Back in his heyday, Hockney donned vintage glasses that were, like the specs of the 1960s, all about self-expression. Their thick, rounded shape gave them an air of geek-chic—precisely Hockney's aim since he wanted a touch of seriousness to his style. Nowadays, he tends toward sleeker, more angular frames, though he retains his fashionable flamboyance.
His famous friendships
Hockney did not create art in isolation. He inspired and was inspired by his friends. In 2003, for example, Hockney and prolific artist Lucian Freud spent a few months painting each other. He also has a longstanding friendship with the talented Andy Warhol—another prominent figure in the art world who added exuberant color to his works. Warhol's tendency to blur the boundaries of high and low art and his penchant for moving everyday objects to the forefront likely endeared him to Hockney.
Like many artists, Hockney has pronounced opinions on the art process. This is what, on occasion, gets him into heated public conversations. In 2012, he drew the ire of the art world when he declared Damien Hirst's outsourcing of his spot paintings insulting to craftsmen—sparking a debate about the oft-used workshop system.
His approach also does not agree with all of its onlookers. This is most exemplified by his design for the Piccadilly Circus underground station when he recreated the London Tube's iconic logo in a style reminiscent of the Windows 98 era of Microsoft Paint. Many people dismissed it as childish and laughable. Considering Hockney's typical stubbornness with his vision and confidence in his skill, however, it's unlikely he was much affected.
David Hockney is a multi-talented artist unafraid to traverse the bounds of art and style. Even today, his works stand out in their playfulness, intimacy, and color.