David Hockney, born 1937 is Bradford’s most famous visual artist – and one with a worldwide reputation. In 2011, 1000 artists voted Hockney the most influential artist of all time.
The Bradford-born, stained glass artist and designer, Jude Tarrant, lived close to David Hockney and has a formative childhood memory of him:
My mum had given my old pram (one of the old-style capacious black ones with springs) to David to push his art materials around Bradford so that he could draw and paint local life, such as the queue at the fish and chip shop in Eccleshill, and he became quite a well-known sight with it whilst he was an art student in Bradford. He might even remember this himself, or having to hold the baby (me) whilst mum went to fetch eggs from our chickens, and which we sold by the tray as a boost to our domestic economy.
He was a most distinctive sight in a pin striped suit, dyed blonde hair and big glasses, and as kids I remember my brother and me and some neighbours used to run along behind him pushing the pram of art stuff making the kind of noise that kids do! When I was older my mum used to take me to see all of his exhibitions as they appeared in local galleries in Bradford, and maybe his exhibitions were something of an inspiration in that it was possible to really communicate with art. When I was about 14 and old enough to travel by train on my own I used my pocket money to visit art galleries in cities like Leeds and Manchester, so I was strongly motivated to see art even then, but it never occurred to me then that art could be something that I would be following as a career, but the spark was there and eventually it took alight.
He lived in the Eccleshill area of the city and was awarded a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School (1948 to 1953). When he left school he began his art training at Bradford School of Art (1953-7).
Hockney worked hard at Bradford Art College, although he was a difficult student. He regularly attended extra evening life drawing classes, but resisted the attempt by the College to prepare him for work as a commercial artist – the usual outlet for art school students at that time. Hockney developed his own unique style during this period, but was willing to embrace any techniques he felt would develop his instinctive way of working. “I was a very determined person”, he said. “I was determined to have a proper art school education to learn drawing and painting and I got it…”
He was an acute observation of people and places. Of Bradford he once said, “This big city I live in may be grey and black; a dirty city, but there is magic in it if I look closely.” He drew portraits of the people that interested him or who he loved. His painting, shown here, ‘My Parents’ was voted by 38,000 to be the nation’s favourite.
From 1959 to 1962 he was a student at the Royal College of Art, London and was awarded a gold medal in recognition of his achievements there; he was already receiving commissions and selling work before he graduated.
In 1963 he began to spend more time living in Los Angeles, USA; a move that had a major impact on his style of painting and in particular his now bold use of colour. In 2007 after a period of being based in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, Hockney completed and gave to the Tate his largest ever painting to date ‘Bigger Trees near Warter’ (2007), which toured in 2011 to Cartwright Hall Art Gallery and two other venues in Yorkshire. In 2013 he returned to live in the USA.
He was awarded the Order of Merit in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, 2012, and in 2017 a new gallery was opened at Cartwright Hall, Bradford, to honour Hockney’s work in general, and in particular to highlight his early work, initial art training and family links to the City.