An accomplished painter, printmaker, photographer, and stage designer, David Hockney began showcasing his talent as a draftsman while studying at his hometown's Bradford School of Art as a teenager. At London's Royal College of Art in the early 1960s, he worked in a style that combined figuration, abstraction, and text, which identified him with the British Pop art movement. His work, however, defies categorization. It consists of still lifes and portraits rendered with delicacy and frankness and, after moving to Los Angeles, has included bold, colorful images of California's sun-drenched settings. Rooted in his personal relationships, his homosexuality, and his literary interests and travels, Hockney's art is, above all, deeply autobiographical.
Printmaking has played a central role in Hockney's practice, and many of his most significant early works take the form of narrative print series. The linearity of etching matches his natural inclination for drawing, and lithography allows him to explore dazzling color. He has also made editions with paper pulp and inventive prints using a photocopy machine. In all Hockney has created more than five hundred prints, collaborating with celebrated printers and workshops in Europe and America and also experimenting on his own.
The artist's initial trip to New York, in 1961, inspired his first major group of etchings, A Rake's Progress, which reinterprets the famous cycle of eighteenth-century engravings by William Hogarth. With great wit and candor, Hockney's "rake" (himself) is a young artist and gay man struggling to find his way in New York. A few years later, after settling in Los Angeles, he completed a series of lithographs entitled A Hollywood Collection, which reflects the city's artificial beauty. Hockney's idea for an "instant art collection," this series includes printed illusionistic frames based on frames he saw at a shop next to Gemini Ltd., where the project was created.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Judith Hecker, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 176.