The five best books on David Hockney—an expert’s guide


David Hockney and Martin Gayford in the artist’s studio in 2018
Photo: David Dawson

“Hockney is an artist who has changed direction, means and idiom repeatedly”

“I’m re-reading Proust’s Remustrance of Things Past right now,” says David Hockney in a new book of conversations with author Martin Gayford. Hockney is not often one to ponder. Its usual function is to look forward to new eras, new projects and to experiment with the latest technology. But Marcel Proust’s wonderful novel about memory and the essence of time is a fitting reference to recent Spring adolescence that can not be undone: David Hockney in Normandy. As the book revolves around Hockney’s most recent work bodies, created after moving to Normandy, it also touches on a huge range of themes by Gustave Flaubert, Bayeux wallpaper and Claude Monet’s love of bacon and eggs for breakfast. a chapter dedicated to “One of David’s favorite subjects”: the depiction of water and reflections.

Hockney’s new works will be on display at the Royal Academy of Art in London next month for the exhibition David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 (May 23-September 26), while previous paintings are currently on display alongside pieces by Vincent van Gogh at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in Hockney, Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature (until June 20).

Martin Gayford is a critic and longtime friend of Hockney’s, having collaborated on many books with the artist. Here are five books he has chosen for anyone who wants to know everything about the life and work of David Hockney.


David Hockney by David Hockney

David Hockney (1976) by David Hockney

“This early autobiography takes us halfway through David’s life, describing his childhood, his early days as an art student and his rapid rise to fame and the discovery of New York and Los Angeles in the 1960s. It ends with a story of his stay in Paris in the mid-1970s. This is the existence of an artist who can be seen from within, work by work “


David Hockney Secret Knowledge

Secret Knowledge: Discovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters (2001) by David Hockney

“In this book, Hockney recounts his research into the history of art. He put forward the idea that optical tools could have been used much earlier and to a greater extent than is generally assumed. Noting that art historians usually do not experiment, he continued to do just that. For example, he made photographs the way Caravaggio, an artist who thought he would use lenses, did. I think it is great for a great living artist to research the history of art in this way and find radical ideas. “


A story of the images of David Hockney and Martin Gayford

A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen (2016) by David Hockney and Martin Gayford

“David’s (and mine) point in A History of Pictures is that the problems of depicting a two-dimensional world in two dimensions, as a flat image, are the same from the walls of Lascaux to the screen of your smartphone. Therefore, painting, photography and to a large extent film share a story. According to David, the camera existed long before 1839. What happened then was the discovery of chemical methods for correcting the image in a dark camera, a tool that was widely used in the 18th century and before. “


David Hockney by Marco Livingstone

David Hockney (revised 2017) by Marco Livingstone

“Marco Livingston is a great start to David’s work. He has written extensively on the subject, and this revised study brings the story up to the year of the artist’s 80th birthday. Hockney is an artist who has changed direction, means and idiom repeatedly over time. If you want an overview of the first six decades of its productive and diverse production, this is a great place to start. “


Hockney: The biography, volumes 2 by Christopher Simon Sykes

Hockney: The Biography, Volumes 1 & 2 (2011 and 2014) by Christopher Simon Sykes

“This is a well-documented biography. The author has spoken extensively with Hockney, who is often mentioned, as well as with his friends and contemporaries. He also had access to family correspondence. The result is a very easy account of a great life, from Swinging London and Andy Warhol’s New York in Yorkshire in the early 21st century. “

Can’t cancel spring: David Hockney in Normandy, Martin Gayford and David Hockney, Thames & Hudson, 280pp, 25 £ (hb)

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