July 9, 1937 – David Hockney
“The Moment You Cheat for the Sake of Beauty, You Know You’re an Artist.”
In the first project of its kind, British Vogue commissioned 14 special covers for the August 2020 issue by British artists. The original prints of each depiction of nature will be auctioned off for Covid-19 relief charities later this year. David Hockney’s is his personal view of East Yorkshire. Hockney:
“This oil painting is of late spring in the village of Kilham. Now, I am in Normandy, a paradise of a place for me. I have made 120 iPad paintings of our large garden – it is like having drawing and painting equipment always at the ready, and there is no cleaning up needed. It’s quite fantastic. The other night I got up to pee at about 4am and saw the largest and brightest full moon in a long time. I was thrilled by it and recorded it on the iPad. Photography is useless for this, it pushes everything away, including the moon.“
Hockney is an Englishman, a painter, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He is one of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st century. His greatness flows from openly following his own desires, including his attraction to other men, while exploring the ways art and life feed each other, visually and emotionally.
He was already a noted and accomplished painter in his native England, but Hockney’s style, point of view, and medium changed (from oils to acylics) when he moved to Los Angeles, a city he had fantasized about since childhood. Hockney:
“Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I’d passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas and won some money, got myself a studio, started painting, all within a week. And, I thought, it’s just how I imagined it would be.“
David Hockney’s best work has a crazy energy and brashness. He uses color and line with moxie. I am crazy for all of his work, but the Hockney that I love best is the late 1960s-1970s painter of sunny California skies and swimming pools, palm trees and boys. His work in this period seems to me to be a modernist painterly slant on color Polaroids and snapshots from the life I was brushing up against when I attended college in Los Angeles from 1972-76. I sometimes attended an all-boy pool party at a famous producer’s home in the Hollywood Hills and one time Hockney was another of the guests.
I couldn’t believe it! There he was, wearing a red baseball cap over his shaggy blonde hair, beige baggy pants, a yellow and red striped shirt with a white collar and yellow striped tie, a yellow watchband, red socks and white Jack Purcell’s. Perched on his proper English nose were his trademark round spectacles. He was holding a sketch book and a Polaroid camera. He was alone and mostly ignored by the parade of boys.
We did not speak to each other. I was at this event as the host’s special guest and I was careful not to overstep the bounds of propriety, but Hockney and I did make eye contact. I like to think that if we had spoken, Hockney would have liked me and I might have become the subject of one his works, possibly the beginning of a series of “Hairy Boy” pieces.
When I asked our host if Hockney might desire some attention, he told me that the artist was not so much reticent, as always working, spending most of his time in his studio in Santa Monica, and that Hockney was always thinking and planning. He explained that Hockney balanced a hedonistic side; enjoying attending his parties, but the famous artist almost always left an event to rush back to his studio rather than to his house in Nicholas Canyon. Our host thought I would be amused to know that Hockney had a sign at the door of his studio that read:
Thank You For Pot Smoking
Hockney has always been openly gay and has always enjoyed a variety of relationships with men. With a series of boyfriends, he never married. Hockney describes himself as a “playboy”.
He is absolutely one of my favorite artists, and although I would love to own one of his paintings (they sell in the millions), as a lowly old gentleman of limited means, I remain content with my Hockney “coffee table” books, including one by the artist that features paintings of his dachshunds, David Hockney’s Dog Days. I also own and highly recommend owning the two delicious volumes of biography by Christopher Simon Sykes: David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975 and David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012. I also have gotten a lot out of True To Life: 25 Years of Conversations With David Hockney by Lawrence Weschler.
These biographies and even his own diaries show Hockney to be exasperatingly egotistical and positively petulant. I admire that in artist. He is also fiercely pro-smoking. What a great cause in this PC age. He absolutley loathes anti-smoking laws:
They are dreary, absolutely dreary… You get rid of smoking and they are all on anti-depressant pills. They say smoking is bad for you, but they used to say the same about wanking.
Hockney is one of the most successful artists in history, with a personal fortune of more than $80 million. His David Hockney Foundation has holdings of his work worth at least 125 million dollars. Christopher Isherwood, the renowned gay writer, owned the most important private collection of his work. In the 1990s, Isherwood’s partner of 33+ years, Don Bachardy, donated the collection to the foundation.
A Bigger Splash, a dark, yet funny pseudo-documentary about Hockney, made in 1973, was released at the start of summer in a restored version. A mashup of fact and fiction, with footage of Hockney working in his London studio. The British director Jack Hazan follows Hockney and his band of bohemian friends in the early 1970s. Hockney, by his own acknowledgment, was at a painful place in his life when it was flmed. His pretty partner, Peter Schlesinger, a young California artist who had posed for many of his paintings, had left him after five years together, ending a romance that lived during one of Hockney’s most artistically productive periods. After the breakup, Hockney had trouble working.
Pool With Two Figures,sold at Christie’s last November for $90.3 million, then the largest sum ever paid at auction for a work by a living artist.
Hockney’s work can be viewed in person at great museums around the globe, including: Boston Museum Of Fine Arts, National Gallery Of Australia, Art Institute Of Chicago, National Portrait Gallery and The Tate in London, the J. Paul Getty Museum and Los Angeles County Museum Of Art, Museum Of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (Hockney was one of the founders in 1979). In New York City, you can see his work at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art and Museum Of Modern Art; there is also the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Philadelphia Museum Of Art, DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, and The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. You might say that Hockney is well-hung.
Be sure to check out Hockney, the new entertaining documentary by Randall Wright.