By Emily Horn, DOMA Intern

David Hockney was way ahead of today’s ever-present selfies creating a multitude of self portraits. We are given access to Hockney’s world, from his early work, where he cheekily addressed his difficulties grappling with the Formalist art movement, to his most famous swimming pool and male nude paintings, to his later, more technology-driven productions where Hockney has fully adopted iPad drawings.


Hockney in the 1960s was making work on subjects he knew and cared about. Being a young gay man when homosexuality was illegal in England he was troubled finding a proper way to express himself. He wanted to promote homosexuality so Hockney painted self-portraits. He was gay and painted himself, effectively creating gay art, but flying under the radar.

In the ’60s, Hockney moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art, and began to quietly explore his sexual orientation in his work. He came out at age 23, seven years before homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain.

“When you said you were gay in the 1960s, people said it was illegal,” Hockney recalls. “Well, I said ‘I lived in Bohemia, and Bohemia is a tolerant place.’”

David Hockney
British, born 1937
Parade, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 1981
Screenprint on wove paper, 82 x 43 ¾ in.
Gift of David T. Owsley, 2013.019.067; © David Hockney

Hockney was an artist who defied generally-accepted social structures and led his life as an openly gay man in a world that systematically oppressed and silenced those who did not conform.

One of Hockney’s works (not on display) resides in the DOMA collection: “Parade (for the Metropolitan Opera, New York).” In 1980, Hockney was invited to design the stage sets at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for Erik Satie’s “Parade.” The ballet introduces the audience to the world of circuses and street fair performances which is why Hockney created the poster for “Parade” with bold colors and simple forms portraying circus images.