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Career of David Hockney

David Hockney has had one of the most unusual careers of any artist of this century. Born in England in 1937, by the time he left London's Royal College of Art Hockney already had a national reputation as a painter. Since that time he has consistently been one of the most financially and critically successful artists in the world as well as one of the most popular (Livingstone 9). Hockney's works are known and recognized by a far broader audience than most artists enjoy. His is the kind of success that perfectly blends popular and critical acclaim. Thus, the prestigious Tate Gallery of London consistently reports that Hockney's well-known double portrait Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy (1970-71) is the museum's most popular picture with visitors (Geldzahler 14). This popularity has grown even as Hockney has changed mediums and styles. From the early pop-related style through the flat-surfaced acrylic portraits of the seventies and eighties and in the California swimming pool pictures, opera sets, engravings and Polaroid collages Hockney has repeatedly extended his art and extended his audience.

Though abstract expressionism was the dominant style at the time Hockney began his career he never adopted a purely abstract approach. Recognizable, if highly-stylized, figures always remained the subject of his paintings. Today the works for which Hockney is best known are the paintings "in a lush coloristic style indebted to Picasso and Matisse" (Fineberg 241). Picasso in particular has been Hockney's model. The inspiration of an important 1960 exhibition of Picasso's work led Hockney to attempt daring combinations, for a young artist, in which he not only "[took] up a number of styles in different pictures, but within a single painting move[d] freely from one mode to another" (Livingstone 41-2). As Hockney himself said, "I deliberately set out to prove I could do four entirely different sorts of pictures like Picasso" (quoted b...

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