British artist David Hockney at 85 - Hindustan Times
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British artist David Hockney at 85

Jul 09, 2022 10:31 AM IST

Considered a superstar of pop art, the British painter is one of the most influential artists living today. He turns 85 on July 9.

As a child, David Hockney's favourite place was sitting at the front on the upper floor 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," the documentary film that director Randall Wright made in 2015 about him. Later on in life, Hockney tirelessly photographed everything around him, capturing scenes of everyday life, sketches by friends, houses, passers-by and all that interested him.

A celebrity with style at 85: David Hockney(Robin Utrecht/ANP/picture alliance )
A celebrity with style at 85: David Hockney(Robin Utrecht/ANP/picture alliance )

For years now, Hockney has been exploring digital tools for his art. He works with fax machines, colour 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 has been an image of the singer Harry Styles. (Also Read: Exhibition explores The Naked Truth: The Male Nude on Paper)

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A grounded star

David Hockney is one of Britain's favourite artists, a global celebrity, a world 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 exciting to see how rain falls in a puddle and then to paint it," says the artist who has a special passion for landscape paintings.

Hockney's artistic curiosity and his spirit of discovery are alive even today as he turns 85.

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

The UK painter also gained renown in the US, where he lived from the 1960s until he moved back to his hometown, Bradford, in 2000. He then settled in Normandy some 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 sell at a high price today.

In 2018, his "Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures)" sold for $90.3 million (€89 million euros), which was at that time the highest price ever paid at auction for a painting by a living artist.

An anarchist with a sense of humour

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Hockney revealed his inner anarchist, with his typical sense of humour. At the meeting in a restaurant, he brought out two cigarette stubs from his pocket; they turned out to be sculptures from a gallery in Berlin.

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

Hockney smokes only Davidoffs, which are sold in Germany and the Netherlands. For the artist, smoking embodies the freedom of the 1960s and the reason why he moved to France, after staying in England when he returned from Los Angeles.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said his era "was the freest time, probably ever. I now realize it's over, so I've locked myself away 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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