Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Ben P. Watkins


David Hockney is generally recognised as the most talented British artist of his generation. In my thesis I trace his development from his childhood until the present as a figure lionised by the establishment. Hockney has become highly respected, a Van Dyck of contemporary polite society.

I show his place in a line of tradition in English painting, a tradition where painters stress the anecdotal above a purely visual language England has a commanding tradition of literature from figures such as Shakespeare, Bacon, Byron, Tennyson, Keats and Dickens, to name only a few. Due to this English society insisted on some literal content to their art. The outcome has been rather eccentric art. Painters comment in a narrative way on ideas, on morals and on social matters in a very personal way.

David Hockney fits into this tradition in English painting.

Chapter one deals with Hockney's childhood, in the north of England. I talk about his early school days and the intellectual climate of the time. Hockney's teachers were not concerned with art, and considered it to be of secondary importance.

I also discuss Hockney's understanding of art. He arrived at painting instinctively and from a basis of ignorance and even misunderstanding of the role of art and the artist in society.

Chapter two deals with his arrival in London. In 1957 he became a student at the Royal College of Art. Where he met others young artists and was exposed to contempory art.

Influenced by Ron Kitaj he overcomes his fear of figure painting, which was considered anti-modern at the time. I discuss his pictoral interests of this time, curtains, style and poetry.

Chapter three sees him going to California and I discuss the affect it had on him; he began to paint the physical look of things. He becomes interested in the painting of water and glass, inparticular swimming pools. Also discussed are his portrait paintings.

The conclusion sees him living in Paris, still interested in style as subject matter, in particular the French style of pointillism. I sum up by writing about my relationship with Hockney; what it is about his art and life I admire.