Jackie Wullschlager ran an interesting “at home” with David Hockney this weekend in the Financial Times. She gives thumbnail picture of his life back in the north of England where he paints every day.
He has a loft studio in the house and another round the corner, a huge industrial-size warehouse lit naturally through the roof, which made him “feel 20 years younger when I signed the lease, I started running up the stairs”. But “every room in this house is a work room, I’m painting 24 hours a day, nothing else enters your head. It’s like Van Gogh sleeping in the studio. I go to sleep with a picture above the bed; if it’s too big, I make a reproduction and put that up, and in the morning I know what I’m going to do. I have something to pursue and I’m going to pursue it. It came at a time when it was just right, I have the confidence, I’m sure of my observations, I don’t need people. This is the only place where I could work like this; in London I couldn’t – it’s also about mental freedom, space in your head. When you’re young you’re interested in what other people are doing, but I’m interested in what I’m doing.”
Lunch is prepared by John Fitzherbert a former chef who joined Hockney in Los Angeles:
The couple have been together ever since, with Fitzherbert – friendly, quietly efficient and prone to fits of giggles – choreographing a domestic life that has since 2003 reoriented back across the Atlantic. Fitzherbert has redecorated the house in cosy furnishings and vivid hues – his own room sunflower yellow, deep blue for a small home cinema, red and pink (“butch and femme”, laughs Fitzherbert) for the guestrooms – in a style far removed from the cool minimalist interiors that made Hockney famous.
Nevertheless, Fitzherbert placed copies of Hockney’s most famous works on a first-floor balconied corridor presiding over the house. Here hang “Mr and Mrs Ossie Clark and Percy” (1970), with pregnant Celia towering over her languid husband; and a conversation piece depicting Henry Geldzahler, the dynamic cigar-smoking curator at the Metropolitan Museum who was one of Hockney’s closest friends and supporters.
Hockney still has a studio in Los Angeles, but for the past five years his subject has been the Yorkshire landscape of his childhood. A few minutes away are the Wolds, the rolling hills and broad pastures of agricultural land that Hockney calls “the least changed bit of England that I know”. The artist of Californian paradises is now making this English Arcadia his own, in oils, watercolours and, recently, enormous composites of large-scale canvases joined together, painted outside.
Over bottles of non-alcoholic Budweiser, Hockney explains that he sees them not as revisiting the past but as “a new adventure. I tell them in Hollywood that I’m on location. They understand that.” His colours are Fauvish purples and crimsons, verdant greens and corn-golds. The compositions are as commanding, and precisely observed – yet stylised in their offhand, abstracting modernity – as any Hockney ever made.
Lunch with the FT: David Hockney (Financial Times)