Ten ½ things you didn't know about David Hockney

  • 3 February 2017

As the world's largest ever Hockney retrospective opens at Tate Britain, we take a look at some of the more unusual facts about the artist.

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971 Private Collection © David Hockney

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971

1
 

He swims every day

The 79-year-old artist stays fit by spending half an hour in the pool each morning.

2
 

His autobiography weighs 35kg

Described by Hockney as his 'autobiography in pictures', A Bigger Book measures 200cm in width at full spread and is 500 pages thick. On its release in 2016, The Guardian reported the volume to be 'as heavy as an armchair'.

3
 

He was voted 'the greatest living artist'

Hockney beat off competition from the likes of Grayson Perry, Anthony Gormley and Ai Weiwei in our 2013 poll.

4
 

He believes smoking is good for his mental health

Hockney vehemently opposed the legislation to ban smoking in England, detailing his objections in comment pieces for broadsheet newspapers and speaking out at the Labour Party Conference. He has smoked for over 60 years – believing it to have therapeutic value – but has been teetotal since his heart attack in 1990.

5
 

He was a conscientious objector

As a young man in the 1950s it was compulsory for him to complete National Service but, as he was opposed to working for the military, Hockney spent two years as a hospital orderly instead.

6
 

The first painting he ever sold was a portrait of his father

It fetched £10 at the Yorkshire Artists Exhibition in 1957, a sum which he said kept him going 'for more than a week'.

7
 

He nearly failed art school

Wishing to be judged solely on the basis of his art, Hockney refused to complete the essay for his final exam at the Royal College of Art; instead, he spoiled his paper with a satirical sketch of the diploma he was trying to obtain. Recognising his talent, the college changed its regulations and passed him anyway. Copies of the drawing exist in the collections of Tate and the V&A.

8
 

Vivienne Westwood named a jacket after him

Westwood is not the only one who has been inspired by Hockney's look, in 2005 Christopher Bailey centred the entire Burberry spring/summer menswear collection around the artist's preppy style.

9
 

He has been partially deaf for over 40 years

Hockney can only hear with the help of powerful hearing aids, which he has in several different colours.

10
 

He declined the offer of a Knighthood in 1990

Hockney said that he turned down the honour because he 'does not care for a fuss'. He was subsequently appointed to the Queen's Order of Merit in 2012.

10½
 

He once devoted an entire exhibition to his paintings of daschunds

Shown at Salts Mill in Saltaire in 1995, it consisted of 45 portraits of his two dogs, Stanley and Boodgie.

David Hockney is at Tate Britain from 9 February until 29 May. Get 50% off admission with a National Art Pass.

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