David Hockney's Doll Boy

Year: 1960
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 121.92 x 99.06cm
Last Realised: No Recorded Sale History
David Hockney’s Doll Boy. An Abstract Expressionist oil painting of a figure dressed in white with the word “Queen” on him and “doll boy” above him. Doll Boy © David Hockney 1960
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David Hockney

David Hockney

631 works

David Hockney's Doll Boy, created in 1960, offers an early glimpse into his exploration of acrylic painting. Featuring a solitary figure set against a backdrop of geometric reds and textured surfaces, the painting's abstract, nearly effaced facial features, alongside its evocative title, prompt a critical dialogue on identity and representation. This composition captures a pivotal moment in British art, challenging viewers to consider the constructs of self and societal norms, establishing Doll Boy as a significant commentary on its times.


Doll Boy: Meaning & Analysis

Hockney’s Doll Boy is an early yet significant exploration of themes that would pervade much of his later work: identity, isolation, and societal expectation. Painted in 1960, this piece arrives at a time when Hockney was deeply influenced by Abstract Expressionism, yet here he starts to pave his path by integrating personal and socio-political undertones.

In this painting, Hockney employs a combination of rough textures and abrupt colour blocks, reflecting the emotional and social fragmentation experienced by individuals grappling with their identities. The figure, almost ghostly in its presentation, serves as a vessel for exploring the duality of our public and private selves. The word “Queen,” boldly labelled on the figure's clothing, can be interpreted as a nod to both Hockney’s own sexuality and the broader dialogues on gender and identity during the 1960s in Britain – a period marked by burgeoning social freedoms yet constrained by lingering conservative values.

Doll Boy utilises a vivid and distinctive visual style characterised by bold colours, flat surfaces, and an unconventional approach to perspective. The painting features playful elements like dolls juxtaposed against the boy's solemn expression, creating a striking contrast that underscores the internal conflict between societal norms and identity.

The minimalist setting of Doll Boy accentuates Hockney's mastery of form and colour, enhancing the visual impact of the composition. This backdrop supports the narrative by mirroring the emotional and social fragmentation depicted through the abstract portrayal of the subject. In this artwork, Hockney continues to explore themes of identity and acceptance, offering a nuanced commentary during the transformative 1960s.

Reflections on Hockney's Doll Boy

Doll Boy remains a critical piece in Hockney’s body of work, reflecting his early engagement with themes of identity and isolation that echo across his career. This artwork engages with the cultural and societal implications of its time, offering a window into the challenges faced by those marginalised by their sexuality or gender expression during the 1960s. Hockney's portrayal of a solitary, almost haunting figure against a disjointed backdrop speaks to the alienation and the search for self that was particularly resonant during a time of significant social change in the UK.

Beyond its immediate social commentary, this work has had a lasting impact on discussions about identity in art. It challenges viewers to consider the layers of meaning behind personal and societal facades. The legacy of this painting lies in its ability to resonate with audiences who have navigated their paths through similar landscapes of identity and expectation.


Doll Boy Exhibition History

Hamburg, Im Blickfeld (In the Field of Vision), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Nov 1991-Jan 1992