He Came. He Drew. He Conquered. David Hockney in His 80th Year

Artwork: David Hockney. Le Plongeur Paper Pool 18 (1978). Coloured and pressed paper pulp. Bradford Museums and Galleries.

“People tell me they open my e-mails first, because they aren’t demands and you don’t need to reply. They’re simply for pleasure,” British artist David Hockney reveals. Truth be told, that’s the best way to live life: to offer beauty to the world for nothing other than the pleasure it brings. Perhaps this is why Hockney has enjoyed a life in art that spans six decades.

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Born in England in 1937, Hockney has been a seminal figure on the scene since the 1960s, bringing an Art Deco twist to Pop Art. His clean, crisp lines and vibrant colors quickly became favorites, as his work spoke to and of the times with an indelible sense of elegance. Hockney is the epitome of British chic, an unstoppable force of nature that continues to this very day.

David Hockney. “Self Portrait” 1954. Collage on newsprint. 16 1/2 x 11 ¾ © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

Now in his 80th year, the artist returns to the public stage with an exhibition focusing on the lessons he acquired during formative years at Bradford Regional College of Art in the 1950s. David Hockney: I draw, I do opens today at The MAC, Belfast, and will run through October 16, 2016. The title of the exhibition comes from a conversation Hockney had with designer Paul Smith, who asked him, “Do you still draw in the more traditional way, in the way you first did when you left the Royal College?”

Hockney replied, “Yeah, I draw, I do. …From the age of 16 to the age of 20, all I did was really draw, because I was at the art school in Bradford and in Bradford you could be in the school from nine in the morning to nine at night… So I drew for four years. I don’t know what art schools are like now, but I’m told they don’t do drawing. That seems a bit mad to me that. Drawing is going to be needed in the future.”

Artwork by Peter Strain

Invariably, this is true. The line is as critical to creativity as color, form, and shape. One cannot have art without the hand of the artist. It is this hand that shows itself throughout I draw, I do, a hand that traces the second half of the twentieth century and finds its way into the new millennium, observing the beauty, charm, and joys of life with a passion that burns from deep within, a passion that was distilled and refined in art school.

Art school is a discipline. It’s the practice and application of rules that have been used for generations, rules that create a balance between hand, eye, and mind with the goal of manifesting the timeless in material form. As Hockney understands, “If you see the world as beautiful, thrilling and mysterious, as I think I do, then you feel quite alive.”

David Hockney. “Margaret Hockney” 2008. Inkjet printed computer drawing on paper. Edition of 12. 49 x 33 © David Hockney

It is this joy that inhabits his work, one that comes alive in all of Hockney’s work, from the student drawings to the iPad portraits of his family and friends. The genius of Hockney is his eternal youth, possessing spirit that sees him push boundaries with ease and grace. He came, he drew, he conquered.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.