Born in Bradford
Born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, on July 9, David Hockney is the fourth son of Kenneth and Laura Hockney. Kenneth is an accountant’s clerk and pacifist, and Laura is a [NESTED]vegetarian and Methodist. They raise their family on modest means.
Just after the war you couldn’t buy new bicycles—they were all exported—so my father used to buy old ones and paint them up to look like new. I used to watch him do it. The fascination of the brush dipping in the paint, putting it on, I love that … even now, I could spend the whole day painting a door just one flat color.
Hockney is a bright young student in elementary school, and already interested in making art. He earns a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School in 1948, where he prefers art class to all others.
We had just an hour and a half of art classes a week in the first year; after that you went in either for classics or science or modern languages and you did not study art. I thought that was terrible. You could only study art if you were in the bottom form and did a general course. So I said, "Well, I’ll be general in form, if you don’t mind." It was quite easy to arrange, because if you did less work you were automatically put in that section.
At the age of eleven, I decided, in my mind, that I wanted to be an artist, but the meaning of the word "artist" to me then was very vague—the man who made Christmas cards was an artist, the man who painted posters was an artist, the man who did lettering for posters was an artist. Anyone was an artist who in his job had to pick up a brush and paint something …. The idea of an artist just spending his time painting pictures, for himself, didn’t really occur to me. Of course, I knew there were paintings you saw in books and in galleries, but I thought they were done in the evenings, when the artist had finished painting the signs or the Christmas cards or whatever they made their living from.
Hockney draws for the Bradford Grammar School magazine and designs posters for the school and city. In 1950, feeling at odds with his school’s curriculum, he applies for Junior Art School, but the Education Office requires that he first complete grammar school. To encourage their son, Kenneth and Laura Hockney arrange for private calligraphy lessons from a tutor at Bradford School of Art, after which Hockney’s general academic performance improves.