Analysing the Influence of Cubism on David Hockney's Artwork

David Hockney’s The Desk. A photographic print of a wooden desk in a fragmented composition of photographs. There are books, boxes, and photo albums surrounding the desk. The Desk © David Hockney 1984
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David Hockney is one of the most successful artists of our time. To truly appreciate and comprehend his artistic style, it’s important to look at the influences that have shaped his unique approach. Among the various artistic movements that have left an impression on Hockney's work, Cubism stands out as a prominent source of inspiration. The exploration of Cubism's influence on Hockney's artwork not only sheds light on the artist's creative evolution but also reveals the layers of meaning and visual language within his compositions -- which have gone on to inspire countless others. By analysing the impact of Cubism on Hockney's oeuvre, we can gain a deeper understanding of his innovative use of forms, perspectives, and imagery.

David Hockney: An Overview

Hockney, born in 1937 in Bradford, England, is a prominent British artist celebrated for his diverse and innovative contributions to the art world. With a career spanning over six decades, Hockney has explored various mediums, including painting, printmaking, photography, and collage. His distinct artistic style and unwavering commitment to experimentation have solidified his position as one of the most influential artists of our time.

Hockney's artistic journey began during his studies at the Royal College of Art in London, where he emerged as a key figure in the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. Inspired by its vibrancy, Hockney incorporated elements of popular culture and consumerism into his work, creating visually striking and socially resonant pieces. However, it was his unique interpretation of Cubism that truly set him apart.

Drawing inspiration from the groundbreaking works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Hockney developed his own interpretation of the movement. In his paintings, he deconstructed the subject matter, breaking it down into geometric shapes and perspectives, while simultaneously retaining a sense of representation and depth. This fusion of abstraction and realism allowed Hockney to capture the essence of his subjects while providing a fresh and dynamic visual experience for the viewer.

Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles Avignon. A lithograph of a Cubist painting depicting five nude women in a room with draped sheets. A bowl of fruit is on the floor in the centre of the women.Les Demoiselles Avignon © Pablo Picasso 1955

What is Cubism?

Cubism is an influential art movement that emerged in the early 20th century, revolutionising the way artists approached representation and perception. The movement aimed to depict subjects from multiple angles simultaneously, challenging the traditional notion of a single fixed perspective. Objects were analysed, broken down into basic geometric shapes, and reassembled to create a new visual language. This analytical approach to representation aimed to capture the essence of the subject matter from different angles and viewpoints, thereby challenging the idea of a fixed perspective.

Cubism originated in Paris, France, around 1907, and its development can be attributed to the pioneering efforts of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who are considered the major artists associated with this movement. Picasso's groundbreaking work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

(1907) and Braque's series of paintings called Houses at L’Estaque (1908) marked the early stages of Cubism. These artists, through their experimentation and collaboration, laid the foundation for the movement's principles and techniques.

One of the key aspects of Cubism was its departure from the traditional hierarchy of subject matter. Instead of prioritising religious or natural themes prevalent in previous art movements, Cubism focused on the deconstruction and abstraction of everyday objects and subjects. This shift away from the conventional subjects in art allowed Cubism to stand out as a radical departure from the artistic norms of the time.

“Cubism was distinguished by a flattening of volume and space, the overlapping and transparency of planes and simultaneity of points of view, disintegration and recombination and generally the independence of colour, form, space and texture without abandoning all reference to nature.”
Alfred Barr, Art Historian and Author of Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art

David Hockney’s Unique Style Inspired by Cubism


One of the distinctive features of Hockney's art is his adeptness at incorporating fragmentation and multiple perspectives within a single composition. This approach can be traced back to the influence of Cubism, which sought to depict objects from various angles simultaneously. Hockney skilfully manipulates space and perspective in his work, allowing different viewpoints to coexist within a single frame. Through fragmentation, Hockney disassembles his subjects into geometric shapes, only to reassemble them into cohesive and complex visual narratives. This technique seen in works like Nude, 17th June and The Desk, challenge the viewer's perception, inviting them to actively engage with the artwork and explore its multidimensional qualities.


Hockney's exploration of Cubism had a profound impact on his use of bold colours within his artwork. Inspired by the vibrant palette often associated with the Cubist movement, Hockney infused his paintings with hues that conveyed energy, dynamism, and a sense of visual intensity.

One example of Hockney's bold use of colours influenced by Cubism can be seen in his Painted Environment series. This large-scale painting features a fragmented composition of a room, with various objects and architectural elements arranged in a non-linear fashion. Hockney employs vibrant and contrasting colours, such as fiery reds and deep blues, to delineate the different elements within the scene. These bold primary colours heighten the sense of fragmentation and add a striking visual impact to the overall composition.

In addition to his exploration of Cubist ideas, Hockney is also known for his experimentation with different mediums and techniques. Throughout his career, he has embraced a wide range of artistic tools, from traditional painting and drawing to photography and digital technologies. This willingness to embrace new mediums reflects the spirit of innovation that was central to the Cubist movement. Hockney's use of vibrant colours and bold brushstrokes further adds to the dynamism of his compositions, infusing his work with a sense of energy and vitality.

Themes in David Hockney’s Work

Hockney's art is often characterised by a celebration of the everyday, capturing the beauty in ordinary objects and scenes. He draws inspiration from his surroundings, especially the landscapes of his native Yorkshire and his later home in sunny California. The interplay of nature and human presence is a recurring motif in his work, as he skilfully depicts the vibrant colours and dynamic forms found in both natural and urban environments.

Personal relationships and experiences have played a significant role in shaping Hockney's artistic journey. His exploration of themes such as love, desire, and human connection can be traced back to his relationships with friends, family, and lovers. This may be most evident in his series of paintings depicting his former partner, Peter Schlesinger. These intimate portrayals capture the emotional depth and complexity of their relationship, reflecting Hockney's ability to convey personal narratives through his art. Notably, the influential curator and art historian Henry Geldzahler served as a muse and mentor to Hockney. Geldzahler's passion for contemporary art and his guidance inspired Hockney to experiment with new techniques and artistic styles.

David Hockney's Pseudo Cubist Collages

As Hockney continued to evolve as an artist, he embraced the medium of collage, which further enhanced his creative possibilities. Collage provided him with a platform to experiment with different materials, textures, and juxtapositions. Hockney's collages often incorporated found objects, photographs, and hand-painted elements, allowing him to blend various artistic mediums into a cohesive whole. His unique approach to collage not only expanded the possibilities of mixed media but also showcased his ability to blend traditional artistic techniques with contemporary concepts.

Through his mixed media works and collages, Hockney achieved a harmonious fusion of Cubist fragmentation and collage's assemblage. He created vibrant visual narratives by combining disparate elements, inviting viewers to explore the layers of meaning and symbolism within his artworks. Hockney's use of collage techniques allowed him to capture the essence of his subjects in a dynamic and unconventional manner.

Youtube © The Smithsonian Museum / What David Hockney's Brilliant Collages Reveal About Photos

David Hockney's Contribution to Contemporary Art

Whether depicting the sun-drenched landscapes of California, intimate portraits of friends and loved ones, or introspective self-portraits, Hockney's art resonates with a sense of joy, curiosity, and human connection. His ability to capture the essence of his subjects in a bold and vibrant manner has captivated audiences worldwide and cemented his status as a true master of his craft. Hockney's artistic journey has been one of constant exploration and reinvention. From his early forays into Pop Art to his distinctive interpretation of Cubism and his groundbreaking experiments with photography and digital art, Hockney has certainly left his mark.

Hockney's significance lies not only in his technical mastery and artistic vision but also in his ability to bridge the gap between traditional and modern art movements. His unique blend of influences, particularly his incorporation of elements from Cubism, has played a pivotal role in shaping his legacy.

However, Hockney's contribution to contemporary art extends beyond Cubism. He also drew inspiration from other art movements such as Pop Art and Expressionism, infusing his works with vibrant colours and bold brushstrokes. This variety of influences resulted in a unique and instantly recognisable style that set him apart from his contemporaries. Hockney's ability to blend various artistic traditions and create something entirely his own showcases his innovative spirit and versatility as an artist.

His artwork has garnered critical acclaim and resonated with a wide audience, making him one of the most influential and celebrated artists of our time. Hockney's bold experimentation with form and perspective continues to inspire contemporary artists, encouraging them to push the boundaries of traditional representation. Hockney's contributions continue to shape the contemporary art scene, inspiring artists to explore new possibilities and push the boundaries of creative expression.

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