David Hockney appointed to Order of Merit

David Hockney David Hockney's distinctive looks made him one of the faces of the 1960s

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British artist David Hockney has been appointed a member of the Order of Merit by the Queen - despite turning down a knighthood in 1990.

The Order of Merit is presented to high achievers in the arts, learning, literature, science and other areas such as public service.

Hockney, 74, has said he turned down the chance to become a sir because he "does not care for a fuss".

"I don't value prizes of any sort. I value my friends," he said.

The order, created by King Edward VII in 1902, is restricted to 24 members and rare additional foreign recipients.

The Order of Merit does not come with a title but members are given a red and blue enamel badge, which reads "For Merit".

When a member dies the badge is returned to the Queen, who receives the next-of-kin personally.

Yorkshire return

In 2003, Hockney told Bradford's Telegraph & Argus paper that prizes "of any sort are a bit suspect".

He said had turned a knighthood down because, at the time, he had been living in the US and "did not think it was for me but I don't have strong feelings about the honours system".

He was speaking after information about people who had turned down honours was leaked to the Sunday Times.

Back in September, he told BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme he had turned down a request to paint the Queen because he was "very busy".

He said she would have made "a terrific subject" but that he preferred to paint people he knew.

David Hockney exhibition A Bigger Picture, an exhibition of Hockney landscapes, opens at the Royal Academy this month

Hockney, one of the best-known figures from the 1960s British pop art movement, first attracted interest while studying at the Royal College of Art.

His figurative drawings and paintings gave him a reputation as a figure who bridged high art and pop art while his blond, bespectacled, youthful appearance made him one of the faces of the decade.

In recent years, Hockney has returned to his native Yorkshire after spending years in California, where he has been inspired by light and space with his paintings of swimming pools proving to be some of his most memorable works.

Beverley Hills Housewife by David Hockney Hockney's 4-metre canvas Beverly Hills Housewife was painted in 1966-1967

His Beverly Hills Housewife - which shows Californian arts patron Betty Freeman in a pink dress standing on the patio of her home - sold in 2009 for an artist record $7.9m (£5.1m) at Christie's New York.

His forthcoming landscapes exhibition in London, A Bigger Picture, will feature some of his more recent works embracing technology.

The pro-smoking campaigner's exhibition, which opens on 21 January at the Royal Academy, is inspired by the East Yorkshire landscape of which he has said: "I'm aware I've got a very good subject, and with each season, I begin to see more."

The exhibition will include a display of iPad drawings and a series of films produced using 18 cameras, displayed on multiple screens.

Some current members of the Order

  • Sir Thomas Stoppard, playwright
  • Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web
  • Professor Sir Roger Penrose, physicist
  • Sir David Attenborough, naturalist and broadcaster
  • Baroness Betty Boothroyd, politician

In 2009, he said: "One morning recently, I made a drawing on my iPhone while I was still in bed, of flowers through the window, and the sunrise, which I could then [email] to 12 people, without it ever having been photographed or printed, and that's very new."

Meanwhile, former Australian prime minister John Howard has also become a member of the Order of Merit.

Mr Howard, Australia's second-longest serving prime minister, served in office from 1996 to 2007.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    As someone who grew up in Brid but now lives in the States I love looking at Mr Hockney's Wold paintings. They bring back memories of a happy childhood going for picnics up Fond Brigg Lane, chatting with the gypsies, paddling in the beck, climbing trees and building dens in Boynton woods. Only wish I could afford one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I am presuming he has turned down previous 'gongs' but this is a true honour for britain's greatest living artist. He is still producing some outstanding works and if you care to leave london to visit saltaire in yorkshire - you can spend a fab day experiencing his wide ranging portolio for free. Congratulations to him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    For a great artist to be recognised while still alive is remarkable, good luck to him. And by the way I don't think a photo exists of Hockney without a a cig in his mouth! Who cares? It's his personal choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I am amazed that he hasn't had some form of recognition before. He is Britain's greatest living artist, who has pushed the boundaries of painting and drawing throughout his career. He can draw, which is a skill that is sadly lacking in most of today's artists. His landscapes are brilliant. He is a real character and an honest man. Tracey Emin - eat your own bed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Here in Bridlington we love Mr Hockney. He's our local deity. God bless him.


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