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English artist David Hockney in a studio with some of his work, circa 1967. (Tony Evans, Getty Images)

With the deaths last year of Lucian Freud and Richard Hamilton, David Hockney suddenly catapulted into position as England’s leading painter. Although the cultivated image of a dandified English schoolboy in white pants, mismatched socks, polka-dot bow tie and beanie is long out of date for an artist who, at 74, is identified with iconic 1960s paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools, the thought is a bit of a shock. Still, the timing couldn’t be better for this enjoyable and well-sourced book, which — like Hockney’s own work — is both conversational and perceptive.

The artist’s paintings serve as chapter headings in the first, fluent volume of Christopher Simon Sykes’ planned two-part biography. The list, roughly but not rigidly chronological, is not a gimmick.


Christopher Knight
Los Angeles Times