Artist David Hockney
British artist David Hockney, whose young assistant died mysteriously on Sunday. Andrew Winning/Reuters

The studio assistant of the British artist David Hockney died mysteriously on Sunday after being rushed to the hospital from the painter’s home in Bridlington, a small resort town in East Yorkshire.

Dominic Elliott, 23, a local man who is being described in the British press as a “close friend” of the artist’s, was reported as being in serious condition when he arrived at Scarborough General Hospital at around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. He was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived. The Humberside Police released a statement Monday saying the death is being investigated, but that no violence is suspected.

“The circumstances of the man’s death are not clear and officers are currently undertaking enquiries to establish events leading to his death,” the statement read. “There were no signs of violence and a postmortem examination is due to take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 19 March) which is hoped may provide further information.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, early reports of the incident suggest that Elliott had taken “something that had led to his death.” However, the paper did not cite a source for that information. The Humberside Police statement contained no mention of Elliott having ingested anything, toxic or otherwise.

Elliott was a popular member of the Bridlington Rugby Club. The club paid tribute to the young man on Monday, according to the Bridlington Free Press, with the club’s director, Rich Girking, calling Elliott a “cracking lad” and an “absolute bundle of fun and energy.” Elliott had worked with Hockney since at least 2008, and was one of two Bridlington men hired to assist the artist in his studio there.

The 75-year-old Hockney is one of Britain’s most famous living artists, an Andy Warhol contemporary who rose to fame in the early 1960s as part of the British Pop Art movement. Last year, he was the subject of a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. In the past, he had painted portraits of Elliott, one of which is hanging in the L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, Calif.

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