David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975: A Rake's Progress

Overview

Drawing on exclusive and unprecedented access to David Hockney’s extensive archives, notebooks, and paintings, interviews with family, friends, and on Hockney himself, Christopher Simon Sykes provides a colorful and intimate portrait of one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

Born in 1937, David Hockney grew up in a northern English town during the days of postwar austerity. By the time he was ten years old he knew he ...

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David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975: A Rake's Progress

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Overview

Drawing on exclusive and unprecedented access to David Hockney’s extensive archives, notebooks, and paintings, interviews with family, friends, and on Hockney himself, Christopher Simon Sykes provides a colorful and intimate portrait of one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

Born in 1937, David Hockney grew up in a northern English town during the days of postwar austerity. By the time he was ten years old he knew he wanted to be an artist, and after leaving school he went on to study at Bradford Art College and later at the Royal College of Art in London. Bursting onto the scene at the Young Contemporaries exhibition, Hockney was quickly heralded as the golden boy of postwar British art and a leading proponent of pop art. It was during the swinging 60s in London that he befriended many of the seminal cultural figures of the generation and throughout these years Hockney's career grew. Always absorbed in his work, he drew, painted and etched for long hours each day, but it was a scholarship that led him to California, where he painted his iconic series of swimming pools. Since then, the most prestigious galleries across the world have devoted countless shows to his extraordinary work.

In the seventies he expanded his range of projects, including set and costume design for operas and experiments with photography, lithography, and even photocopying. Most recently he has been at the forefront the art world's digital revolution, producing incredible sketches on his iPhone and iPad, and it is this progressive thinking which has highlighted his genius, vigor and versatility as an artist approaching his 75th birthday.

In this, the first volume of Hockney’s biography, detailing his life and work from 1937 - 1975, Sykes explores the fascinating world of the beloved and controversial artist whose career has spanned and epitomized the art movements of the last five decades.

"The timing couldn't be better for this enjoyable and well-sourced book, which — like Hockney's own work — is both conversational and perceptive." —Los Angeles Times

"To read Christopher Simon Sykes' David Hockney is to marvel at the artistic gifts of the eccentric Yorkshireman who rose from a sometimes pinched childhood to hobnob with poet Stephen Spender and novelist Christopher Isherwood, to party with Mick Jagger and Manolo Blahnik." —The Plain Dealer

"Prodigiously entertaining." —Financial Times

“A chatty, knowledgeable, insider's biography, full of anecdotes.” —The Guardian
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Writer and photographer Sykes’s love for the work of David Hockney, one of the most celebrated contemporary artists, is evident in this energetic, absorbing, if only mildly critical, first volume of an authorized biography. Drawing on extensive interviews with the artist, his mother’s diaries, and interviews with Hockney’s associates, Sykes skillfully integrates Hockney’s private history with his public, artistic life to provide unusual insight into both his emotional and professional life. Spanning the period from Hockney’s birth in 1937 through his collaboration with director John Cox on a new stage interpretation of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, Sykes organizes his narrative into detailed but swiftly paced chapters, beginning with Hockney’s youth in Yorkshire, England, where observing the simple, practical painting of his father restoring prams and bicycles first inspired the boy to become an artist. Young Hockney was a bit eccentric, the class clown, a developing homosexual, and an underachiever in every subject save for art, which he pursued persistently and prolifically, eventually at London’s Royal College of Art. Most interesting is Hockney’s early and continued support for gay rights and the importance of travel abroad for his artistic inspiration and personal development. Sykes’s revealing text is complemented by sketches, drawings, and personal photographs. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"The timing couldn't be better for this enjoyable and well-sourced book, which — like Hockney's own work — is both conversational and perceptive."
Los Angeles Times

"An entertaining and intimate biography which leaves no aspect of the artist's life unexplored."
Associated Press

“What Mr. Sykes does best in these pages is capture Mr. Hockney’s almost preternatural love of making images, his passion for art, which dates to his earliest childhood ... Mr. Sykes offers some fascinating accounts of the evolution of certain well-known Hockney paintings and in doing so, traces the autobiographical impulses in Mr. Hockney’s work, his peregrinations from London to Paris to Los Angeles, his frank embrace of homosexual themes and his relationships with family, friends and lovers.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Fluid, entertaining....Meticulously researched, Sykes's account is a pleasure to read."
The New Yorker

"To read Christopher Simon Sykes' David Hockney is to marvel at the artistic gifts of the eccentric Yorkshireman who rose from a sometimes pinched childhood to hobnob with poet Stephen Spender and novelist Christopher Isherwood, to party with Mick Jagger and Manolo Blahnik."
The Plain Dealer

"Sykes' writing has a real raconteurial flair ... Along with Hockney's personal successes and travails, Sykes pays close attention to the art. He takes you inside Hockney's head, noting the artist's dissatisfaction with even some of his most highly regarded paintings and recording Hockney's thoughts on such artistic challenges as painting water."
The Seattle Times

"Energetic, absorbing ... Sykes skillfully integrates Hockney’s private history with his public, artistic life to provide unusual insight into both his emotional and professional life."
Publishers Weekly

"Intimate, vivid ... A personal, lively look at this extraordinary artist’s career. Readers will eagerly await the second volume."
Kirkus Reviews

“Lively and lavishly detailed. . . . Sykes’ portrait knits Hockney’s life and work together in perceptive and substantiated ways. Charismatic and funny, gregarious, inquisitive, phenomenally skilled and inventive, and forthright about his homosexuality, young Hockney embraced every opportunity to go somewhere new and try something different. And his prismatic, autobiographical, and provocative paintings, prints, and stage designs evolved accordingly during his sojourns in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. Sykes profiles Hockney’s mentors, friends, and lovers—a veritable who’s who of the art world and high society—analyzes his influences and innovations, and ends on a high note.”
—Booklist

"Prodigiously entertaining."
Financial Times

“A chatty, knowledgeable, insider's biography, full of anecdotes.”
The Guardian
 
“Christopher Simon Sykes is quick to blow away the cobwebs in his biography, the first of two volumes, pointing to Hockney's trailblazing status. This is…an exhaustive and authoritative telling of the Hockney story.”
The Independent
 
“Certainly the most moving and amusing account of the most popular British artist of the 20th century. [David Hockney] bounces along as the rebellious, eccentric, funny artist discovers sex, then London, and so on to fame and fortune, via California. Sykes elicits marvellous background details and anecdotes… The wit, energy and magical talent of Hockney to use whatever happens to him to his purpose and for humour are shown on almost every page.”
London Evening Standard

Library Journal
In this first part of what will be a two-volume biography of David Hockney, freelance architectural writer and photographer Sykes provides a compelling account of Britain's most famous living painter. Readers follow Hockney from his unconventional upbringing under a socialist father in austere postwar England to his studies at a conservative, upper-class public school and the Royal College of Art in London. It was here where, after a brief flirtation with Picasso- and Pollock-inspired abstraction, Hockney made a decisive shift toward figurative, autobiographical, and sexually themed art. By the early 1960s, Hockney was a rising star in the London pop art scene, winning the accolades of Richard Hamilton and rubbing shoulders with Andy Warhol. VERDICT Recommended for anyone interested in the remarkable life of this highly regarded painter. Rich with archival detail and the insight of family, friends, and the artist himself, the book is an engaging read. Nevertheless, those seeking a broader historical context for or critical insight into Hockney's artwork may want to look elsewhere, as Sykes rarely departs from his narrowly biographical narrative.—Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr.
Library Journal
Photographer and writer Sykesmoves beyond David Hockney's paintings of cool blue California pools to track his entire life and career, from his 1937 birth in northern England to his breakout at a Young Contemporaries exhibition in London to experiments beyond painting, including set and costume design, and more. For art lovers and other sophisticated readers.
Kirkus Reviews
First volume of an intimate, vivid biography of the ever-evolving English artist. Now in his mid-70s, Hockney is still reinventing himself, most recently with his use of the iPhone. A friend of the artist, photographer Sykes (The Big House, 2004, etc.) provides an excellent sense of what has fed the artist's fertile, restless imagination. Born in 1937 to an antiwar couple in the Yorkshire industrial city of Bradford, Hockney became a scholarship boy who excelled at art but little else. His attendance at the Royal College of Art in London in 1959 drew out the tremendous talents of this awkward provincial kid, exposing him to modern art for the first time, especially currents from America (e.g., Jackson Pollock), and shaping his sense as a gay artist. Pop art exploded, depicting the everyday objects of modern life, and Hockney dallied briefly, such as in the use of graffiti (Doll Boy). Before even graduating, several events proved decisive to the shaping of his career. His work attracted the attention of hot young London dealer John Kasmin, and he visited New York City and resolved to go blonde after watching a TV commercial. He also won the RCA's gold medal, started selling paintings, thanks to Kasmin's relentless promotion, and moved into a large flat in the then-slummy Notting Hill, which would be his base for the next fruitful decade. Considered bright, witty and inventive, Hockney spent the transformative years of 1963-5 in Los Angeles, creating his early iconic work. Teaching at UCLA in 1966, Hockney met Peter Schlesinger, who became an important lover and muse. Experimenting with photography, etching, portraiture and theater and working between London, Paris and L.A., Hockney has never ceased questing. A personal, lively look at this extraordinary artist's career. Readers will eagerly await the second volume.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385531443
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/17/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

CHRISTOPHER SIMON SYKES is a photographer and writer. He specializes in architectural and garden photography and writes on architecture and social history. Sykes worked with Eric Clapton on his autobiography, Clapton, and his work has appeared in publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and Architectural Digest. He lives with his wife and daughter in North London.

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