Portrait of the Young Artist

David Hockney was born on 9 July 1937 in Bradford, West Yorkshire. As a schoolboy, he had a passion for art even before he fully understood what it meant to be an artist. His academic training at Bradford School of Art, which emphasized drawing, painting, and the study of anatomy and perspective, provided the foundation for his career.

The works in this section demonstrate the evolution of Hockney’s practice, built upon his natural aptitude as a draftsman. At the Royal College of Art in London, where he enrolled in 1959, Hockney threw himself into life classes. In 1960, a Picasso retrospective at the Tate marked the beginning of a fascination with the modern master, whose eclecticism was a formative influence on the young artist.

Although homosexuality remained illegal in England until 1967, Hockney took up overtly gay themes in his work at the Royal College before almost anyone else. In A Rake’s Progress, a personal narrative of his first trip to the United States in the summer of 1961—influenced by the eighteenth-century print series by William Hogarth—Hockney’s sense of his own identity began to emerge.

Artwork: © David Hockney