Hockney from age 38 to 75, bubbling with enthusiasm.
In this second lively volume of David Hockney’s authorized biography, Sykes (David Hockney, 1937-1975, etc.) covers the artist’s peripatetic, energetic years of fame: major exhibitions (a 1988 retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art attracted 16,000 visitors the first week), commissions to design opera and ballet sets, and an outbreak of Hockneymania when his work was exhibited at the esteemed Tate Gallery in London. Typically working from dawn (painting the sunrise from his bedroom window) to dusk, Hockney, a friend told Sykes, “loves to work until he’s so exhausted…his body has already caved in. At that moment he’s making his discoveries and those are inspirational.” The artist thrived on discoveries, which increasingly involved new technologies. Quantel Paintbox allowed him to layer colors without muddying them. He also played with a photocopier, which he found much more creative than lithography, producing “the most beautiful black I had ever seen on paper.” The fax machine inspired “endless experiments” in tone and led to his creating pictures made up of more than one sheet of paper, to be assembled by the recipient. Faxing also enabled him to communicate more easily than by telephone, which became impossible as Hockney became increasingly deaf. He was excited by the Brushes app on the iPhone, the process of digital drawing on an iPad, and especially the computer, which enabled him to make huge pictures. For a 10-gallery exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art, he produced the largest work ever hung in the gallery’s history. Only the AIDS epidemic and loss of friends and colleagues dampened Hockney’s irrepressible spirits.
Drawing on interviews with Hockney, his siblings, and colleagues; Hockey’s autobiography; and diaries of famous friends, such as Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender, Sykes matches his subject’s ebullience in this admiring, well-researched life.