Despite never wishing to be labelled as a Pop artist, David Hockney is hailed as one of the most influential British painters in spreading this sensibility in both Britain and the rest of the world.
Keen to become an artist from a very early age, Hockney began his training at the Bradford School of Art in 1953 and moved to London in 1957 to attend the Royal College of Art. There he met Ronald B. Kitaj and his works gradually shifted away from the abstraction of the earlier years to tell stories often inspired by poems. In these early days in London he first made his homosexuality a subject matter, and it became one of the main themes of his later work. During these years his style had reminiscences of children’s art and the work of Jean Dubuffet and Pablo Picasso. About 1962, the year he graduated, his work was regarded with interest by teachers and art critics alike.
Before settling in California at the end of 1963, Hockney visited New York, where he met Andy Warhol. However, his desire to find an uninhibited society and come into contact with the alternative Californian world he had read about in magazines spurred him to travel to the West Coast of the United States. The West coast lifestyle captivated him and was reflected in the themes of his works, which often portrayed swimming pool scenes with wet men bronzed by the region’s constant sunshine. He abandoned oils for acrylics in order to achieve flat, anonymous and brilliant surfaces, and at this point photography began to gain importance, initially as a manner of working and eventually in its own right in the collages of Polaroid photographs produced during the 1980s. Hockney has likewise shown an unceasing interest in introducing new technologies into his work, and continues to do to the present day.
The favourable criticism Hockney has received is not limited solely to his paintings but also extends to his skills as a draughtsman and engraver. He has also collaborated in stage design for numerous theatre and opera productions, another of the passions he has had since childhood.