David Hockney 'in shock' following death of friend and studio assistant Dominic Elliott

Police have launched an investigation after Mr Elliott, 23, fell ill at the artist's Bridlington home

David Hockney was said to be in a “state of shock” last night following the unexplained death of his close friend and studio assistant.

Dominic Elliot, 23, was taken ill in the early hours of Sunday morning at the artist’s home in Bridlington, East Yorkshire.

It is understood that the popular rugby player, who cut a distinctive figure in the seaside town with his ginger curly hair, was driven 20 miles to Scarborough General hospital after he began vomiting by the 75-year-old painter’s long-term partner.

Mr Elliot later died in hospital and a post mortem examination is due to be carried out tomorrow (Tuesday) although toxicology results could take several weeks. Among the lines of inquiry being followed by police are suggestions that Mr Elliot may have been drinking prior to his death or that he had an underlying health complaint.

Mr Hockney’s publicist Erica Bolton said Mr Elliot had been a “very important person” to the artist and had worked with him for more than two years.

“He is incredibly upset about it. Like everybody else he is in a state of shock,” she said.

The younger man, who was born and grew up in the town, had assisted the painter with lighting and other technical issues as he worked in the open air painting the wide open spaces and vast skies of the Yorkshire Wolds countryside.

Britain’s greatest living artist was inspired by the landscape during visits to see his mother from his home in the United States. It provided the subject for some of his most acclaimed later work including the monumental Bigger Trees Near Warter which the artist recently donated to the Tate. He “painted” Mr Elliot in 2008 as part of a series of portraits completed with an iPad app.

Friends said he saw his role as assistant to Mr Hockney as a “dream job” and had travelled extensively with the Pop Art pioneer who returned to the Yorkshire coast full time following the death of his mother. He had helped him prepare for last year’s blockbuster show at the Royal Academy, which was entitled A Bigger Picture, and the pair saw each other most days.

Last week friends said he had met Sir Paul McCartney and was a trusted member of the artist’s inner circle who had his own key to Mr Hockney’s detached house overlooking the North Sea where yesterday the blinds were drawn and a number of people came and went.

A police car was parked outside the house for five hours on Sunday and Mr Hockney is expected to be spoken to by police about the circumstances leading up to his assistant’s death. It is not known whether he was at home at the time his friend was taken ill.

The former York University business student had his own home nearby. He returned to Bridlington after his studies and was part of a prominent and respected family. His father, a local doctor died of a heart attack, suddenly in 2001 aged in his 40s.  His family were too upset to comment on his death.

A keen sportsmen, Mr Elliot played rugby and hockey. At Bridlington Rugby Club where he was described as a “cracking lad” and the “life and soul of the party”, chairman Gordon Morrice paid tribute to Mr Elliot.

"Dominic was a valued member of our club, a good player with great potential. With his size and ability he could easily have established himself as a first team regular. He was a popular lad and had so many friends at the club, he said."

It is believed he was driven to the hospital by Mr Hockney’s partner of 23-years John Fitzherbert, a former chef. The couple also have a home in London.

Locals said the Bradford-born artist who spent most of his career in California, was regularly seen walking up and down the promenade to buy cigarettes or dining at a local café with members of his team.

Mr Elliot’s close family friend Leanne Nelson, described him as a “special person” and said everyone that knew him was devastated by his death. “He was one of those people that would do anything for you. He was the most genuine person, so many people loved him and it has affected so many people,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Humberside Police said there had been no signs of violence:  "The circumstances of the man's death are not clear and officers are currently undertaking inquiries to establish events leading to his death,” she said.  

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own