A defining figure of Pop art in Britain, David Hockney is considered by many to be one of the most charismatic and talented living artists in Britain. Following his award of a Gold Medal from London's Royal College of Art in 1962, and his first solo exhibition in 1963, Hockney rose to prominence as a painter of partly abstracted images of domestic scenes.
Hockney's move to Southern California in 1964 saw the artist take up as his subject matter the relaxed, leisurely scenes of his new environment: its sun-soaked landscapes, swimming pools and modernist houses. This marked the period in which Hockney created some of his best-known work, painted in a recognisably stylised mode, characterised by large planes of flat colour and graphic, sharp lines that incisively describe the edges of rectilinear SoCal modernist facades. These scenes sometimes included male subjects, often in the nude and depicted from behind—a hint at the homoerotic interests that marked a notable part of his contribution to queer art in the mid-20th century.
The naked male body came to exist as a subject in its own right in Hockney's etchings of male couples created in the late 1960s. Two Boys Aged 23 or 24 (1966), like several other prints by the artist of that period, presents the male figure in a state of undress. In the etching, which is part of a series that illustrates fourteen poems by the pre-war Greek writer Constantine P Cavafy, two men are depicted lying in bed after a moment of amorous interaction. The presence of intimacy between men and homoerotic scenes in Hockney's work predated the legalisation of homosexuality in his native England in 1967.
The early 1980s saw Hockney challenging the medium of photography, resulting in his photocollages (referred to as 'joiners') employing the use of Polaroid prints and, later, 35mm prints arranged in loose grid-like patterns. In Pearblossom Hwy, 11–18th April 1986, #2, for example, the conventional depth and illusionism of photography is disrupted by a fragmented materiality and two-dimensionality, evoked by the evidence of the collage's contrivance. Hockney used photocollage to challenge the overall unity of an image, a feature that reveals his affinity with the Cubists' concern for multiple perspectives viewed simultaneously. After taking photographs from various viewpoints, he stuck these together to create his composite images. This treatment was extended across a variety of different subjects, including portraits, landscapes, architecture and still life.
Amongst Hockney's most well-known bodies of work are his brightly coloured paintings of landscapes. In these large-scale panoramas, often rendered in dramatic shades of acid pink, lime green and bright orange, Hockney returned to the countryside of his native Yorkshire. In 2007, his multi-panel gridded compositions culminated in the creation of his largest painting, consisting of some 50 or so panels, painted en plein air with the help of digital photographs, assembled into a composition of more than 12 x 4.5m in dimension with the title Bigger Trees Near Warter Or/Ou Peinture Sur Le Motif Pour Le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique (2007).
Hockney's practice has spanned a diversity of media including painting, drawing, collage, photography, printmaking and set design. Around 2009, Hockney began utilising new handheld and mobile technologies in the form of iPad and iPhone applications to produce portraits, still lifes and landscapes. Many of these were then sent to friends electronically.
David Hockney's work can be found in many prominent international public collections, including the National Portrait Gallery, London; Tate, London; the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Hockney lives and works in both England and the United States.