BRUSHES WITH HOCKNEY

From the archive: even in his 70s, David Hockney’s enthusiasm is boyish, his work rate ferocious. Karen Wright tries to keep up

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Summer 2010

BRIDLINGTON 2009 

Whenever you visit David Hockney, he has something new to show you, like a 72-year-old child. As soon as I reach his house in Yorkshire, he drags me upstairs. “I am cleaning Claude,” he announces, taking me into his bedroom. We stand before a large colour photograph of Claude Lorrain’s 1656 painting, “The Sermon on the Mount”, which hangs in the Frick Collection in New York. Hockney explains that when he was in America for the opening of his exhibition last October, he visited the Frick several times, and the Claude intrigued him. In the 18th century it had been owned by the father of the eccentric English collector, William Beckford, and was damaged by smoke in a fire. The Frick left the painting as it was, whereas Hockney decided to restore it—not by applying chemicals to the surface, but by using his knowledge and the computer skills of his assistant, Jon, to reveal what lay beneath the areas blackened by smoke. This was typical Hockney, in the spirit of his book “Secret Knowledge”, which explored the theory that old masters including Vermeer and Caravaggio used optical devices in making their paintings. It was a theory largely ignored by art historians, but taken more seriously by artists.

The Frick gave Hockney a high-resolution scan of the painting on a disc, and in Bridlington he had the technology to print it almost life-size (the original is 67in x 102in / 171cm x 260cm). The photograph has been hanging opposite his bed for several days while he “absorbs the picture”. It is only after studying it closely that he feels capable of approaching the job. “I am constantly looking at it,” he says. “It’s as good as wheeling your bed into the Frick, really.”

We stand in front of the photograph. “Poussin was the painter for the intelligentsia and Claude was the painter for the aristocracy,” Hockney says, in one of his characteristic pronouncements, which don’t really require a reply. He points out that this is an unusual Claude, since the central mass of the composition is in the foreground, while the two sides recede into deep space. The shape of the winding path through the rocks echoes the river on the left. On the right, a temporary village of tents and a circle of supplicants has re-emerged from under the areas damaged by soot. Hockney leads me back downstairs. “I’ll show you the latest version tomorrow,” he says, “in the light, when we visit the studio.”

It’s five years since he made the decision to leave California and come back to England, exasperated by the attitude to smokers. Some people thought that he might move to London, where he has a house and an adjoining studio in Kensington, but over the decade that I’ve known him, his hearing has deteriorated, and big cities, with their jabber of background noise, have become more difficult. So he went back to Yorkshire—not quite back home to Bradford, where he was born in 1937, and which he remembers as “a very dark, very Gothic, industrial city”, but to Bridlington, a seaside town on the east coast, where his mother spent the last ten years of her life (she died in 1999) and close to where his sister Margaret lives. Bridlington isn’t at all Gothic, and not dark: although it’s on the North Sea rather than the Pacific, there is plenty of light.

Well, usually there is. After my three-hour train journey to York, then an hour and a half in a hire car, I turned up in the darkness of the afternoon. And landed like an alien in a household of four men—Hockney lives with his long-term partner, John Fitz-Herbert, and two assistants, Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima and Jonathan Wilkinson.

It is Jean-Pierre who shows me up the ornately carved wooden staircase to a comfortable guest room painted a deep cherry red. Like the rest of the house it has been completely redecorated, but he points to the number three on the door, a vestige from the house’s days as a small hotel. On the walls are drawings and photographs—Hockney with Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. 

I’ve barely drunk my tea when Hockney ushers me into the cinema, which he tells me is the last room to have been completed. It has deep blue walls, comfy leather sofas and an authentic-looking green exit light that he switches on before we settle down in the dark. First he shows me a short film he’s made about “Bigger Trees Near Warter”, his painting of a copse of trees on the edge of the Warter Priory estate halfway between Bridlington and York. This is the copse that was notoriously felled a couple of years ago when Hockney was in the middle of painting it. It is a composite work made up of 50 panels and measures 40ft by 15ft, the largest he’s ever made. It was first shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2007. Now it is in the Tate’s collection, after Hockney made a gift of it in 2008.

We watch another film about trees, and then a short film about the making of his 1997 painting “The Road to York Through Sledmere”. This is a split-screen video work with the painting filmed on one side, and the journey through Sledmere on the other. Hockney provides a running commentary, telling me that the idea for the painting came when he kept driving through the village on his way to Bradford to visit his friend Jonathan Silver, the founder of the Salt’s Mill arts centre, who was dying of cancer.

“I filmed this standing on the seat with my head through the sunroof,” he says, watching the screen intently and pointing out some of the landmarks that appear in the painting. “There is the cupola, there are the stables, and there is the monument on the corner. See, the stables are really on the other side of the street. But I moved them across the street between the houses, as there was space for them there.

“I am an artist,” he says. “I am allowed to change things. It’s artistic liberty. I am depicting, but I am not a topographical painter.”

These statements of his, even when they are simple, can hit you with a bang. It’s as if he has shone a whole new light on his paintings. The compression of time and layers of images starts to make sense. What some critics have dismissed as mere hyped-up realism is actually careful composition.

So this is really a collage? I say, tentatively.

“Yes,” Hockney says, enthusiastically. “The invention of the collage was a great thing. All my work is a collage.”

I sit in the dark, reflecting that friendship with Hockney is like a collage as well. You might not see him for a long time, but when you do it’s bright and vivid, and eventually the glimpses add up to a full picture.
 
LONDON 2000 

I bump into Hockney at the wake for the painter Prunella Clough, held at the Royal Academy. He gives me his number and tells me to call, and when I dare myself to do it, he invites me round for tea. His house is in a mews in Kensington: small, but perfectly comfortable. To get to his studio you head out of the back door and through a Japanese garden, which has sculptural standing slates reminiscent of Chinese scholar stones. The studio is small, too, but filled with colour and ideas from the paintings around the walls. A pinboard is crammed with postcards and posters, faxes and scribbled notes to himself. As we’re talking, he jumps up from his small stool and goes to the wall where there is a painting in progress, a landscape based on a recent stay in the Italian lakes. He dips his brush in black ink and, delicately but surely, makes some shadows on the trunk of a tree.

When we go back into the house, he points to a collection of bonsai trees arranged on a shelf. “I’m painting them at the moment,” he says. “I buy them up the road at Homebase.” London has many expensive shops selling these rarefied plants, and Hockney has found them in a DIY chain store.

LOS ANGELES 2000 

In California for the first time, I land in San Francisco with my two daughters, Louisa, who is 15, and Rebecca, 13, and we drive down the coast to Los Angeles on the infamous Highway 101. I call Hockney and we’re invited to tea the next day. We arrive at his house at the top of Mulholland Drive. As we go in, we pass a large picture window that mimics an aquarium with brightly coloured hand-painted fish swinging on invisible strings in the breeze from the door. He has a small garden and there is the celebrated swimming pool—smaller than you expect, like a famous person. It is kidney-shaped with squiggly lines painted on the bottom that form the ripples and dappled reflections so familiar from Hockney’s pool paintings of the 1960s. What we might have assumed was an eloquent abstraction was actually a fairly accurate representation.

He takes us into his studio, a converted indoor tennis court, to show work in progress, painted landscapes. Then it’s back to the house into the television room, a snug where he shows us a short documentary about some of his early investigations into the camera obscura and how artists used optical devices long before the invention of photography. We’re joined by his two dachshunds, Stanley and Boodgie. Stanley is the only dog to have featured as the main subject of a show at the Tate. He and Boodgie are also, it has to be said, quite smelly.

Hockney’s ideas are infectious: he expects the visitor to engage with them. He gives the girls a small concave mirror and says, “You can do your own camera obscura,” showing them how to look into it and pointing out where the light needs to come from.

Tea is served and, as always at Hockney’s, it’s a meal filled with visual and sensual delight. We eat iced cakes and fruit tarts sitting at a table with a bowl of pears making a simple, beautiful centrepiece.

He invites us all to come back a few days later and take his famous car journey through the mountains, which are visible in the distance. We need to get there in time for the sunset, but we get stuck in traffic and arrive late. Hockney is fretting, but says we might still make it, so we all climb into his silver Lexus, he loads some Sousa marches music onto the CD player and puts his foot down. He has compiled a selection of music to respond to the landscape and to the experience of the sunset, with a series of carefully timed crescendos and diminuendos that match the contours of the journey and the colours over the mountains. Soon we are climbing to the accompaniment of Schubert and Wagner, swooping around bends, occasionally slowing down and then needing to speed up to keep pace with the music. It’s scary but exciting, and it transforms the way you look at a landscape.

Back home in London, studying the paintings from his Mulholland series, I feel the same sensation that I felt during the rising and falling of our sunset drive. It is as though Hockney, like Kandinsky before him, wants to form a correspondence between colour and sound, to create the visual equivalent of a symphony.

LONDON 2002 

Hockney has started to explore watercolour, making quick portraits, and he asks me to sit for him. It is an informal process, he says, and it will be done in three to four hours. We agree on a date and I duly turn up on a Saturday afternoon. He suggests I sit on a black swivel chair facing his painting chair and adopt a pose. I choose to hold my coffee mug. It’s a comfort gesture, really, because it feels strange sitting there doing nothing. He works opposite me, with the paper on the table between us. He is so close that I am very conscious of his breathing, which quickens as he becomes more engaged. My hair is unruly and every time I move my head slightly, he lets out a sigh—almost a groan—of despair: “Your hair.” I can’t see the painting, only the paintbrush and the palette, but it’s unnerving when I see him loading up his brush with green to do my hair.

He doesn’t talk while he paints, but every now and then he gets up for a cigarette break and I’m allowed to relax the pose. I peep at the portrait. My face is an alarming shade of pink, but at least my hair is only highlighted with green.

When he’s finished, there’s not much chat. We’re both exhausted and need to get away from each other. Later he gives me a photocopy of the painting and signs it. Some of my friends say it’s not flattering, but I like it. It manages to capture my smug look, which came from the feeling that no matter what happens, no one can take the experience of sitting for Hockney away from me.

LONDON 2003 

I’m flicking through a sketchbook at Hockney’s when I come across a drawing of two-colour soup: green and red. A couple of years ago I had Hockney and a group of friends round to dinner. We’d sat in the basement of my house in west London and I’d made green and red soup (pea and pepper) in his honour, serving it carefully so the colours didn’t mix. I ask him about this and he says, “I draw everything I see. I always have a sketchbook on me. I love having my bus pass. I love sitting on the top of buses and watching out of the window.”

LONDON 2003 

It is Christmas Eve and we are invited to Hockney’s for Christmas tea. We enter to the loudest carols I have ever heard. Hockney’s sister is staying with him: “she’s even deafer than I am,” he says.

In the living room, a double-height space, a huge Christmas tree soars up into the air, nearly hitting the ceiling. It’s decorated with hundreds of twinkling turquoise fairy lights; John tells me later that there are over 40 strings. After tea and mince pies, Hockney calls my daughters over to help him investigate an early Christmas present: a sumo-size volume of the works of Leonardo da Vinci. For the next hour he turns over page after page, analysing and dissecting every mark. He points out to Rebecca that the directness of drawing has an energy that must be brought into paint. Watching and listening to him, I am aware of how he is constantly learning, through his eyes and through his hands, caressing the reproductions as if they are alive.

BRIDLINGTON 2005
 

It is late spring and we have been invited up in time to see the hawthorn blossom, which Hockney is about to paint. It’s the first time I’ve visited him in Yorkshire. He has dubbed this week “action week” because of the short-lived period of blossom and the need to capture it. Rather than taking us upstairs to his attic studio, he leads us outside to his car. We take a ten-minute drive into the countryside. It is a strange reprise of our trip in Los Angeles, with, as before, music on the CD player. This time it’s a mixture of Bruckner and Nat King Cole, and Hockney seems much less involved with it. I ask whether his deafness affects his enjoyment of music, and he says he gave up designing for the opera because he couldn’t really hear the music any more. But Jean-Pierre laughs when he hears that. He says when he puts jazz on the radio as they drive around Bridlington, Hockney complains that the sound doesn’t match the view.

We pull into a lay-by. “I am working in plein air,” Hockney says, gesturing to what looks a rather sad spot. There’s an empty Coke can and some blue-striped Tesco bags caught in the trees. He drives on down the lane, pointing out the hawthorns that will soon be in full bloom. “The blossom doesn’t last long,” he says, “so I have to be ready.”

On the way we talk about the state of contemporary art. No one wants to “simply paint a tree,” he says. “That is because it’s too hard for most of them. They just want to take an idea. Painting is harder than ideas.”

Later we sit around the kitchen table eating malt bread slathered with butter. “It is really working out [for me] here,” Hockney says, “People leave you alone, you know. I can sit in the lay-by painting and in a whole day only a few cars go by. No one bothers you.” This is one of his gifts: to be equally at home in a Yorkshire lay-by and by the pool in Malibu.

LONDON 2007 

I’m at the Royal Academy, a few days before the opening of the Summer Exhibition, for a first glimpse of “Bigger Trees Near Warter”. Secretly, I am worried. The site of the painting was so uninspiring. How was Hockney going to make it into something spiritually uplifting? My fears are immediately assuaged. The large scale of the work reminds me of the Grand Canyon paintings he did for his show at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1999. There, the colours were dramatically vibrant, almost theatrical oranges, reds and purples; here they are more muted—greys, lilacs, greens—but thoughtful in their subtlety. And just as in the Grand Canyon works, despite the scale, the painterly detail is still here. The new painting is much more beautiful than I thought it could be. It is a melancholic wood, far from the light and colour of California, but suffused with the history of its surroundings.

While I’m looking at the painting with Hockney, we’re joined by three young students from the Royal College of Art who have asked if they could meet him. He is generous with his time, cupping his ear to catch their questions, talking to them about “isms”. Watching the encounter I remember him telling me why he talks a lot. “I never stop talking because I am deaf,” he’d said. “Deaf people talk all the time because they don’t want to listen.”

The students stand looking at the trees. “Good, aren’t they?” he says with a twinkle.

VENICE 2009 

At the Biennale, sitting outside in the Giardini, checking my iPhone for emails. I’m delighted to discover 24 new messages, all from “DH”, all with attachments. He has been sending iPhone drawings to friends over the last few months while he explores the technology. They are mostly still-lifes, with some sunrises. There is something incredibly free and joyful about these little pictures, and, regardless of the technology and their diminutive scale, they are instantly recognisable as Hockneys. I later discover he does them first thing in the morning while he is still in bed. He has a tiny wooden easel on his bedside table where his iPhone rests at night.

I respond by sending him a photograph I took recently in Los Angeles. It was May and the purple jacaranda flowers were in full bloom. I hoped it might bring back some fond memories, but Hockney replies with a ticking-off, a hand-drawn command on a bright yellow background: “No photography, drawing more vivid.” It makes me laugh—as if I’m going to send him my painfully amateur drawings.

I’m amused, when I get back, to find this in the introduction to a catalogue of his photographs: “Photography opens up enormous possibilities of vivid interpretations on a flat surface of the lovely and wonderful experience of working which I intend to pursue and put back into my paintings.”

For the moment Hockney’s renewed passion for painting has pushed photography into the back seat. But it has always played a role in his work, starting with the self-portrait he took in a photo booth in 1962 on a trip to Berlin: the wide-eyed artist, cigarette lodged firmly in mouth. He wrote his name across the top of the photo like a reference to the Hollywood sign, with the date and place behind it, in the style of his paintings of the period.

When he began, he used a wide-angle lens, but he was unhappy with the inherent distortion. So around 1970 he began to make his collages, or “joiners” as he would call them, with separate photographs forming a single image. The first was a composite portrait of his then partner Peter Schlesinger, made with just four photographs. These led directly to more complex photo-collages, including the most famous, “Pearblossom Highway 11th-18th April 1986”,  and culminating in one enormous collage of the Grand Canyon.

A decade later, when the Pompidou approached him about a retrospective, they wanted to include the photographic collages, but he also felt the need to create a new moment of excitement. He thought of blowing up the photographs, only they wouldn’t enlarge to the size that he wanted. So he decided instead to paint the Grand Canyon, and in just over a year he put together a series of panels which together made one huge painting. Ironically, it was doing these paintings that made him turn against photography—they alerted him to the “potentiality of paint”, and its greater vividness. But while he continues to proselytise against the camera today, he still experiments with the medium, ever on the lookout for new technology to explore.

NEW YORK 2009
 

Hockney is having his first exhibition of new paintings in New York for 13 years at Pace Wildenstein. I went to a recent show in London and don’t expect to see much difference, so I am knocked out when I enter the gallery on 25th Street. Here are new Yorkshire landscapes and it’s not just the scale that is so different, much bigger, it’s also the palette, which is deeper, richer and gutsier than the earlier Bridlington paintings. There are other forms, too, quite reminiscent of Hockney’s work from the 1970s, which was heavily influenced by Japanese screens. The flora here are stylised and unnatural; the hawthorn blossom is rendered in almost surreal, sausage-shaped forms—like loofahs. The landscapes are straight out of “The Wizard of Oz” and you feel that Dorothy could come prancing over the hill.

They have something of Philip Guston’s late paintings in their slight cartoonishness, but it does not end there. Hockney’s first group of works from Bridlington showed his depth of looking, painting what he saw, and they seemed somehow comfortable and familiar. These show that depth of looking coupled with something beyond it—something that involves the imagination to capture the power of the land; something contemporary about something very ancient. I go over to congratulate him, waiting my turn in the long line of admirers. “It was a helluva lot of work,” he says. “New York isn’t Bent Flower, Iowa. You’re going to be looked at. Everybody is going to look at it, and if it is dull and boring, that’s it.”

BRIDLINGTON 2009 

I’m walking round the house before dinner looking at the pictures. Hockney points out “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy”, hanging in the hallway, instantly recognisable. But it hangs in the Tate. “How can this be?” I ask, wanting to stroke the canvas. “Have you borrowed it back?”

He chuckles. “We have this amazing camera.” He points out the line of a stretcher bar, which shows up in the photograph but is undetectable when you stand in front of the original. “It shows details you can’t see with the human eye.”

We all settle down in front of a roaring fire for Cornish pasties (imported from Lidgate’s, Hockney’s butcher in London) with a hot local piccalilli relish. John Fitz-Herbert tells me that the log burning in the hearth, which has to be one of the fattest pieces of wood I have ever seen, is from the copse that was felled when Hockney was painting it. I ask Hockney if it still upsets him.

“No, love,” he says, his accent unchanged by decades in California, “I was upset for a while, but they make pencils out of the wood and I use pencils as an artist, so it’s fine.”

When I ask the assembled company whether they are enjoying being here permanently, Hockney says, “We didn’t come here to stay, it just slowly happened, really. It happened because I was, first of all, being very productive here. When you’re young you really want to be in the city, you want other artists around you, you are always following what they are doing. Well I’ve lived like that. Now, especially if you’ve got a lot to do yourself, as I think I have, you really want some isolation, you want some solitude, some tranquillity. Here is the perfect place. Nosers leave us alone.” But, he adds, “If I was 20, I would probably leave.”

Next morning Hockney drives me to his studio. He used to work in the attic of the house, but now he’s found a new place five minutes’ drive away. We cross over the railway tracks and turn into a light industrial estate. The space is huge, 10,000 square feet, so big that the large van parked inside looks quite comfortable in its surroundings. There is a mezzanine area, where photographic works are displayed, and at one end are the three long dioramas of trees that starred in one of the films I’d seen at the house.

In a smaller room off the main space is a model of the Royal Academy. Hockney has been invited to curate a show for January 2012 that will fill the galleries with his paintings, drawings and photographs. He is already trying things out, hanging miniatures on the little walls. I can identify “Bigger Trees Near Warter”. He says he’s hoping to do a new work on a similarly grand scale before the show. “But I’m conscious of how much there is to do in less than two years.”

I ask why I haven’t received any iPhone drawings recently and get a memorable reply. “The sun has gone south for the winter,” he says, “and my bed has not.”

BRIDLINGTON 2010 

It’s the beginning of May, and the hawthorn is nearly out again. I arrive in the late morning to be told Hockney is napping; he’s been up since 6am drawing and filming, and has gone back to bed exhausted. When he appears, dishevelled, sleepy-eyed and slightly dazed, he is clutching an Apple iPad. In seconds, he is wide awake and demonstrating his new toy, which he has been using “constantly” since it arrived a few weeks ago: “It’s brilliant,” he says. He shows us his latest drawing, made at 6am that morning while he was still in bed. It’s the view out of his window a building site on the seafront with a black metal crane above it. The drawing will change, he says: he has to erase the crane and then put it back in. He demonstrates how he’ll do this with a video of an earlier drawing of a similar scene. The image seems to morph in front of our eyes: the crane slowly appearing, then disappearing, then reappearing over the course of about a minute.

We’re sitting in the kitchen and on the table there is another of Hockney’s miniature easels, this one in silver, where he rests his iPad to show us one of his home-movies of trees. But soon he’s picking it up again and flicking through different drawings and videos he’s been doing.

He suggests we drive over to the studio as there is something he wants me to see. Inside the huge hanger, I’m first blinded by the flood of light, then conscious of colour overwhelming my senses. My attention is drawn to the end wall, where Hockney is in the middle of painting “The Sermon on the Mount” on a scale worthy of Wagner.

It fills the entire wall, about 15ft high and 40ft wide, and the colours are eye-popping: there are fields of jacaranda purple in the background, and the sea has been lightened to a soft, milky, opalescent blue. The eccentric figures have been stylised in a way that recalls Stanley Spencer. The river’s curves have been modified into more geometric shapes. The paint has obviously been applied with large brushes and in a more gestural way. If proof were needed of new tools for new ideas, a big grey waste bin holds long, wooden-handled brushes labelled number 50, the biggest brushes you can buy.

Along the length of one wall there are photographic prints of the Claude in various stages of being cleaned, as well as a series of studies for Hockney’s composition. In some of them he has been experimenting with a Cubist interpretation of the painting, breaking down the forms, finally settling for a more central single column of rock, in a deep orange, for the main painting. Once again, I’m reminded, in both colours and scale, of the Grand Canyon paintings, particularly one that he made in 1989, which measured nearly 7ft by 24ft. As we leave the “Sermon” behind, he says, “I have named it ‘The Bigger Message’,” and he laughs uproariously.

I study the prints of the Claude and, now that the computer work is finished, I’m amazed at what has been revealed. In the foreground a rivulet of water glistens in the light. The rocks of the mount, which seemed fused together in one dark mass, are now clearly demarcated as boulders, as are the steps of the path hewn into the stone. The tented village and circle of supplicants are fully exposed on the right, and one can now appreciate the rhythm the artist sets up between the river and path wending up through the rocks. It took them a full three weeks to get it right, Hockney says. “A lot of it was looking at it, printing out sections to see the details. It’s the high tech of the computer and the camera coupled with the low tech of the printer that makes it so successful.”

Along the other wall in the studio are the friezes of trees that so impressed me before Christmas and although they still do, they’re put in the shade by the sunny emanations of the Claude. Hockney shows me the sinister-looking contraption that can be fixed to his Jeep: nine expensive professional cameras mounted on three metal bars that sit above the driver’s cab. “People think we are from Google Maps,” he says, chuckling. Hockney used to have to hold one camera nine times to get the width of image he required. “Now I sit in the back seat with a bank of nine screens, and I can orchestrate the shooting that way. I don’t look through the lens at all. It is less hand-held but also less exhausting.” The effect is striking, even when shown on an iPad. The trees seem to arch right over you, revealing the full beauty of their colours and shapes.

On the drive back he shows me where the blackthorn is in flower. The hawthorn won’t be far behind. It’s so fragile, he says, and if there is rain or wind, it lasts an even shorter time. “To do it well, you have to see it well.” You need to get up early to catch nature. If you’re not up by 6am you won’t get it. If you miss it, you deserve to fuck up the foliage.” Back at the house he shows us pictures of the trees in the snow, taken only a few weeks before. “We got up early and we were the first ones there,” he says. “I thought the place would be thronged with photographers,  but no, it was empty. It is the same with the hawthorn. If it was Japan, there would be throngs of tourists but here no one cares. No one looks.

Before I leave I go to the loo, where there’s a small sign, carefully lettered, in a black frame: “Death comes even to those who don’t smoke.” When I mention this, he holds up his special imported Turkish Camels from the United States. “When we’re born, we’re going to die. The cigs may get me, but if not something else will.”

He picks up his iPad and slips it into his jacket pocket. All his suits have been made with a deep inside pocket so that he can put a sketchbook in it: now the iPad fits there just as snugly. Even his tux has the pocket, he tells me.

I ask him if he still draws on his iPhone and he snorts. “No! That’s just a phone now.”




Pictures, in order of appearance:

Hockney in his studio, with a picture of Laurel & Hardy; “Bigger Trees Near Warter”, 2007, now in the Tate; “Mulholland Drive: the Road to the Studio”, 1980, showing the hills where Hockney did his drive set to Wagner; Hockney with the hawthorn blossom he loves to paint; The hawthorn: “May Blossom on the Roman Road”, 2009; A joiner: “Pearblossom Highway, IIth–18th April 1986”; “Karen Wright”, 2002: “it manages to capture my smug look”; “The Sermon on the Mount”, 1656, by Claude Lorrain, in the Frick; Hockney’s “The Sermon on the Mount 2, after Claude”, 20I0.

Picture Credit: Jonathan Root, David Hockney, Richard Schmidt, MIchael Bodycomb, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Frick Collection, Jonathan Wilkinson.

 (Karen Wright is editor at Philips de Pury and former editor of Modern Painters.)