British artist David Hockney at 85


As a child, David Hockney’s favorite place was sitting in the front on the upper deck of a double-decker bus. From there he had the best view of the city and its landscape. “I always wanted to see more,” the artist said in “Hockney,” director Randall Wright’s 2015 documentary film about him. Later in life, Hockney tirelessly photographed everything around him, capturing scenes of everyday life, sketches of friends, homes, passers-by and anything that interested him.

For years, Hockney has explored digital tools for his art. He works with fax machines, color copiers, uses his iPhone as a sketchbook or paints directly on his iPad. In 2018, the artist created a stained glass window for Westminster Abbey, designing it on his iPad. He often sat with the device in the church hall and was inspired by the play of light. His most recent creation on his iPad is an image of singer Harry Styles. (Also read: The exhibition explores The Naked Truth: The Male Nude on Paper)

A grounded star

David Hockney is one of Britain’s favorite artists, a global celebrity, a global citizen, a bohemian – and a chain smoker.

In 1989 he won the Praemium Imperiale, often described as the Nobel Prize for the Arts.

Hockney, however, considers himself a tireless worker. He often wakes up at dawn, because the early morning light is so special. “I find it fascinating to see how rain falls in a puddle and then to paint it”, explains the artist who has a particular passion for landscape paintings.

Hockney’s artistic curiosity and spirit of discovery are still alive today as he turns 85.

The artist created approximately 2,000 paintings and thousands of photos and sketches. He often used the latter as studies for larger paintings.

The British painter also rose to prominence in the United States, where he lived from the 1960s until returning to his hometown of Bradford in 2000. He then moved to Normandy a few years ago.

Hockney was friends with many great artists, including Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Like the works of his contemporaries, Hockney’s colorful acrylic works fetch a high price today.

In 2018, his “Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures)” sold for 90.3 million dollars (89 million euros), at the time the highest price ever paid at auction for a painting by a living artist.

An anarchist with a sense of humor

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Hockney revealed his inner anarchism, complete with his typical sense of humor. During the meeting in a restaurant, he took out two cigarette butts from his pocket; they turned out to be sculptures from a gallery in Berlin.

During the pandemic, he even claimed that smokers had developed immunity to the coronavirus. The artist had written a letter to the Daily Mail citing a study in China that had proven the same.

Hockney only smokes Davidoff, sold in Germany and the Netherlands. For the artist, smoking embodies the freedom of the 1960s and the reason why he settled in France, after staying in England on his return from Los Angeles.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said his time “was probably the most free time ever. I now realize it’s over, so I’ve locked myself in a nice house in Normandy where I can smoke and do what I want. And that’s where I’m going to stay.”


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