David Hockney: Biography, Paintings & Photography

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

The photography and paintings of British artist David Hockney are some of the most influential art pieces on the twentieth century. In this lesson, we will learn about Hockney's life and work.


Did you know that David Hockney was chosen as the most influential artist of all time in Britain's 2011 The Other Art Fair Poll? David Hockney is a contemporary English photographer and painter best known for his depictions of swimming pools in Los Angeles, California. Hockney is well known for his collage-style photographs and his realist painting style. Additionally, his work was very important to the pop art movement. In this lesson, we will examine David Hockey's life and talk about his painting and photography styles.


Early Life

David Hockney was born in England on July 9, 1932, to Kenneth and Laura Hockney. He grew up with four other siblings and received a solid education. During his studies at the Bradford College of Art, he studied under Frank Lisle, a renowned British painter. Additionally, Hockney attended the Royal College of Art in London where he began developing his artistic style.

During the Young Contemporaries Exhibition, Hockney showed his work alongside Peter Blake, an artist who is credited for the beginning of British pop art. Despite Hockney's original expressionistic style, he was grouped with the British pop art artists, and ultimately, his work would fit into the movement.

Hockney encountered problems when he tried to graduate from the Royal College of Art. The college refused to give him a diploma because Hockney would not complete the exit essay required of students. Eventually, the college updated its rules to allow Hockney to graduate, mostly due to his rising status and his public sketch known as The Diploma that garnered attention unwanted by the school


During the 1960s and 1970s, David Hockney moved back and forth between Los Angeles and England. Hockney's first visit to California was in 1963, and in 1966, he made a home for himself in the greater Los Angeles area. Hockney became obsessed with swimming pools in Los Angeles and painted many series that highlighted the Southern California culture. Gradually, his work morphed from expressionist to realist. Hockney also began painting portraits. However, he abandoned painting for quite some time, due to his love of photography.

Around 1970, Hockney produced his first 'joiner,' a photography collage using Polaroid photographs. Hockney would join Polaroid photographs together in a grid. These pieces would become the cornerstone of his career.

During the 1980s, Hockney began painting again, but he didn't abandon photography. Many of his paintings during this time were of the ocean, flowers, and portraits. Many of his portraits were of friends, family, and his parents.

As technology became more prevalent in society, Hockney incorporated it into his work. For example, Hockney uses paint application on iPads to create artwork. At the Royal Museum of Ontario, Hockey presented 100 paintings that were created in a digital medium.


David Hockney has painted seascapes, portraits, and many other landscapes in his career. His most famous work is his series of Los Angeles swimming pool paintings. One of his best known swimming pool paintings is called A Bigger Splash. The painting was completed in 1967 and is categorized as a pop art piece.

David Hockneys A Bigger Splash

The painting features a modern home in the background and a swimming pool in the foreground. The swimming pool has a diving board, and Hockney has painted a large splash, which tells us that somebody has just jumped into the water.

It was made with acrylic and painted on a white cotton duck canvas. The beauty of the painting is that Hockney used only seven colors to complete the giant painting (the canvas is 96 inches and 95.5 inches).

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