David Hockney: Painting/Photo Collage

Born on July 9, 1937 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, David Hockney is a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He is considered by many to be one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century.

From 1953-57, Hockney studied at the Bradford School of Art  and then at the Royal Collage of Art from 1959-62. He received the Royal College of Art gold medal in 1962 for his paintings and draughtsmanship.

Hockney’s early work was diverse.  He became associated with the British Pop Art movement (though he rejected this label), but his work also displayed expressionist elements. In the late 1960′s his work was “weightier” with a more “traditionally representational manner”.  He spent much of his time in the United States and California swimming pools and homoerotic scenes became a well known themes in his work.

In the 1970′s Hockney worked as a stage designer creating set and costume designs for productions including Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress and Mozart’s The Magic Flute which were produced at Glyndebourne Opera House. Hockney was the subject of  the 1974 Jack Hazan’s film called “A Bigger Splash” (named after one of Hockney’s swimming pool paintings from 1967).

In the early 1980′s Hockney produced photo collages which he called “joiners” with subject matter from portraits to still life, and from representational to abstract styles. “Using varying numbers of small Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. Because these photographs are taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times, the result is work that has an affinity with Cubism, which was one of Hockney’s major aims—discussing the way human vision works.”

In the mid to late 80′s, Hockney made use of computers, colour photocopiers and fax machines to create artwork. In 1985, he was commissioned to draw with the Quantel Paintbox, a computer program that allowed the artist to sketch direct onto the monitor. In 1989, he sent work for the Sao Paulo Biennale to Brazil via fax.  Hockney experimented with computers, composing images and colours on the monitor and printing them directly from the computer without proofing.

From the 1990′s onward, Hockney has continued to work on a variety of paintings, photographic and digital work, as well as opera productions. His works have been exhibited across the globe and are in the collections of most major museums.  As well, many of his works are now located in a converted industrial building called Salts Mill, in Saltaire, near his home town of Bradford.

Hockney currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California and London, England. “Since 2009, Hockney has painted hundreds of portraits, still lifes, and landscapes using the Brushes iPhone and iPadapplication, sending them to his friends.”

For more information about David Hockney, visit DavidHockneyPictures.com.

David Hockney-Related Books



Romare Bearden: 1911 – 1988

Born on September 2, 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Romare Bearden was a multi-talented artist and one of America’s foremost collagists.  Bearden’s family moved to New York City in 1914 in an attempt to distance themselves from Jim Crow’s “separate but equal” laws.

Bearden initially studied at Lincoln University but transferred to Boston University where he was the art director of Beanpot, a student humour magazine. He then completed his degree in education at New York University.  At NYU, Bearden was enrolled in art classes and was a lead cartoonist and art editor for the monthly journal “The Medley”.  During his University years, he published numerous journal covers and wrote many texts on social and artistic issues.  Bearden also attended New York’s Art Students League, studying under German artist George Grosz. Bearden served in the US Army between 1942 and 1945 and returned to Europe in 1950 to study art and philosophy at the Sorbonne with the support of the GI Bill.

From the 1930′s to the 1960′s Bearden was a social worker with the New York City Department of Social Services and worked on his art in his free time.  He had his first successful solo exhibitions in Harlem in 1940 and in Washington DC in 1944. In 1954, he married dancer and choreographer Nanette Rohan, with whom he shared the rest of his life. During this time, Bearden was active in Harlem’s art scene and was a member of the Harlem Artists Guild.

Bearden was a prolific artist who experimented with numerous mediums including watercolours, oils, collage, photo montage, prints, and costume and set design. His inspiration was gathered from his lifelong study of art from the Western masters, African art, Byzantine mosaics, Japanese prints, and Chinese landscape paintings. Bearden is best known for his collages which were featured on the covers of Time and Fortune magazines in 1968.

Bearden was active in numerous arts organizations and was a respected writer and spokesperson for the arts and for social causes. In 1964, he was appointed as art director of the African-American advocacy group, the Harlem Cultural Council.  He was also involved in the establishment of art venues such as The Studio Museum and the Cinque Gallery that supported young minority artists. Bearden was also a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.

Bearden’s work is on display in major museums and galleries in the United States including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Bearden received numerous honorary degrees including doctorates from the Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Davidson College, Atlanta University, and others.  He received the 1984 Mayor’s Award of Honour for Art and Culture in New York City, and the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Ronald Regan in 1987.

Romare Bearden died in New York on March 12, 1988 from complications due to bone cancer.  His estate provided for the Romare Bearden Foundation which was established  in 1990 and whose purpose is “to preserve and perpetuate” his legacy.  The foundation also supports the “creative and educational development of young people and of talented and aspiring artists and scholars”.

Related Books:
Romare Bearden

The Art of Romare Bearden

Conjuring Bearden

Sources: Romare Bearden Foundation, National Gallery of Art, Artcyclopedia, New York Times, Wikipedia

Max Ernst: 1891-1976

The_Elephant_Celebes-Max-Ernst-1921Max Ernst was born on  April 2, 1891 in Brühl, Germany. A prolific artist, Ernst is considered to be one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

Ernst studied philosophy at the University at Bonn in 1909 and was influenced by the ideas of Freud, Nietzsche and the  Max Stirner.  In 1911 Ernst became associated with August Macke and joined the Rheinische Expressionisten group in Bonn. He exhibited for the first time in 1912 at the Galerie Feldman in Cologne.  In 1913 he met poet Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay and traveled to Paris. In 1914 he met Jean Arp, who was to become a lifelong friend.

From 1914-1918, Ernst served in the German Army.  He continued to paint, influenced semi-Cubist, semi-abstract motifs following Delaunay, Arp and Apollinaire.  “Like many German writers and artists he was scarred by his experience of the war; it led him to reject the values of his family and class and to join in with the provocative, critical stance of the Dada movement.”

Ernst married art historian Louise Strauss in 1918. Between 1919 and 1920,  he collaborated with Johannes Baargeld in Cologne on an exhibition and a series of publications similar in style of the Dada activities in Zurich and Berlin. In 1922, Ernst left his wife and child and moved illegally to Paris, where he lived and collaborated with French poet Paul Elouard and his wife Gala.

“After 1918 Ernst rarely employed conventional techniques in his paintings. His early work shows that he was a technically skilled painter and draughtsman. Between 1918 and 1924 virtually all his paintings and prints were based on the principle of collage, and this practice remained central to his later work. Ernst’s major paintings of 1921–4 do not employ collage, but their composition is based on the collage principle.  Ernst’s definition of collage as ‘the culture of systematic displacement’ and ‘the exploitation of the chance meeting of two distant realities on an unfamiliar plane’”

From 1925-1927, Ernst developed the  frottage technique which he said was a form of automatism. In 1926, he produced a series of drawings called Histoire naturelle that he exhibited and published. “The drawings were made by placing sheets of paper over different objects such as floorboards and leaves, and rubbing with a stick of graphite. Through precise selection, combination, control of texture and some discreet additions, he was able to build up delicate, surprising images of fantasy landscapes, plants and creatures. He adapted this fundamentally simple technique to painting in the form of grattage, by which textures and patterns were made through simultaneously rubbing and scraping off layers of paint. Representational forms were then extracted from the whole by means of overpainting.”  Ernst used variations on the technique in most of his paintings for the next several years, especially in the Forest series.”

Ernst held successful exhibitions between 1925 and 1928, and became a “fashionable” artist in Paris. In 1926 he painted sets for Diaghilev’s production of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in collaboration with Joan Miró.  In 1927, Ernst married Marie-Berthe Aurenche and painted After Us—Motherhood, using calm, harmonious forms and warm colours. “This painting, along with the three versions of Monument to the Birds,  illustrates Ernst’s growing preoccupation with bird imagery during this period.”

In 1929, Ernst renewed his interest in collage producing the  ‘novel’, La Femme 100 têtes (‘The woman with 100 heads’). The book consisted of 124 captioned pictures which were made by adapting images taken from late 19th-century illustrated magazines. From 1929 to 1932, Ernst also created a series of collages featuring ‘Loplop, the Bird-Superior’. “In these and other collages Loplop represents the artist himself and presents a sequence of tableaux illustrating Ernst’s technical methods and ideas.”

During this period, Ernst supported the ideas of the Surrealists. “Andre Breton’s novel Nadja and Dalí’s advocacy of the ‘paranoiac-critical’ method were important background influences on his work. Ernst renewed his solidarity with the group in his collage Loplop Introduces Members of the Surrealist Group.”

From 1925 to 1931 many of Ernst’s works carried imagery that was “violent and menacing. This aspect of his work became more prominent after 1933, partly in reaction to the political and social climate of the time.”  Ernst (as well as many other German artists and writers) was condemned by the Nazi cultural authorities.

During the 1930s Ernst became increasingly well known. He exhibited at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York and in 1936 and 1938, participated in the large international Surrealist exhibitions in London, New York and Paris.

At the outbreak of WWII,  Ernst was interned as an enemy alien. With the help of Peggy Guggenheim, was able flee to New York in July 1941. Ernst married Guggenheim in 1942 and became a leading figure among the art community in New York. His marriage to Guggenheim was short, and in  1946, Ernst married American artist Dorothea Tanning.

In New York, Ernst developed a technique using paint dripped from a suspended, swinging can and renewed his belief in the “unconscious sources of his work.” Many of his paintings of this period employ the technique of decalcomania where “rich, unpredictable patterns were obtained by either taking an impression from, or sponging, layers of liquid paint: figurative motifs were then developed by overpainting.”

In 1946 Ernst and Tanning settled in Sedona, Arizona, and in 1948, he gained American citizenship. Between 1943 and 1950 he  created a series of paintings in a controlled geometric style and produced a number of sculptures.

In 1953 Ernst and Tanning returned to France where he had his first major post-war retrospective at Knokke-Het Zoute. Ernst became a naturalized French citizen in 1958. His reputation grew steadily after his return to Europe and in 1954 he was awarded a Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale. In the following years,  major exhibitions of his work were held in New York, Cologne, and Stockholm. Major retrospectives of his work were held in New York and Paris in 1975.

Max Ernst died on April 1, 1976 in Paris. He was interred at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Sources: MoMA, Olga’s Gallery (images), Guggenheim, Wikipedia

Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1960-1988

Skull-basquait-1981Born on December 22, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a successful graffiti and Neo-Expressionist artist who continues to influence modern artists today.

Basquiat showed a passion for art at a young age and was encouraged by his mother who had an interest in fashion design and sketching. Early influences include cartoon drawings, Alfred Hitchcock films, cars and comic books.  An avid reader that spoke 3 languages, he was also inspired by French, Spanish, and English literature.

From 1976-78, Basquiat created ‘Samo’ (Same Old Shit), a fictional character who earned a living selling ‘fake’ religion. He also collaborated with his close friend and graffiti artist Al Diaz. Basquiat and Diaz ‘s graffiti took the form of spray-painted messages  that were seen around Lower Manhattan. In 1978, SAMO gained some recognition when a positive article was printed in the Village Voice. The collaboration ended in 1979 and “Samo is dead” was seen on walls in SoHo.

In the late 1970s Basquiat met artists and musicians in various clubs and this led to his introduction to New York art collectors and dealers. During this period Basquiat created postcards, collages, drawings, and T-shirts that depicted events such as the Kennedy assassination and themes such as  baseball players and Pez candy.

Basquiat’s first public exhibition was in the group “The Times Square Show” alsongside David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Lee Quinones, Kiki Smith, and others. By 1982, he was showing regularly and became part of the Neo-expressionist movement. That same year, he began dating the then unknown Madonna and met Andy Warhol, with whom he collaborated  and formed a close friendship. Basquiat’s first solo exhibition was also held in 1982 at the Annina Nosei Gallery in New York.

Basquiat’s art was influenced by imagery and symbolism from African, Aztec, Greek, and Roman cultures, as well as that of his own Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage and Black and Hispanic cultures. The crown was Basquiat’s signature motif. In some paintings, the crowns are placed on top of generic figures. More often, he crowned his personal heroes including  jazz musicians, such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and athletes, such as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Hank Aaron.

Basquiat began many paintings by pasting his own drawings or photocopies of them onto the canvas. He also used words to elaborate his themes often repeating the same words over and over again creating a hypnotic effect.

In 1984, Basquiat began using a new layering technique using silkscreens.  His drawings were transferred onto screens and printed onto the canvas. He then painted, drew, and added more silk-screened images to build the piece into a multi-layered composition.

In the mid-1980s Basquiat began using heroin, and much of his artwork appeared unfinished and repetitive. The death of Andy Warhol in 1987  had a profound affect on him.  His grief  turned into creativity  and his painting displayed a new confidence and maturity.  Many of his works during this period make references to death.

Following an attempt at rehabilitation, Basquiat died on August 12, 1988 of an accidental drug overdose. He was 27 years old. Several major retrospective exhibitions of Basquiat’s works have been held since his death, in the US and internationally. The Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland is holding a retrospective from May to September 2010 to mark the Basquiat’s fiftieth birthday.

For more information about Jean-Michel Basquiat, visit the source links listed below.

Basquiat on Amazon.com

Sources: Ciudad de la pintura (images), Brooklyn MuseumWikipedia, MoMA

DAF Group Feature: Vol. 128

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