DAvid Hockney takes two crumpled cigarette butts out of his pocket and puts them on the lunch table. “You’re sick,” says his lifelong friend Celia Bartwell. He has appeared in many of his paintings. “Worst! Worst!” But the harmful objects he put next to our sandwich are different from what they look like. “They aren’t real,” says Hockney. “They are sculpted. They are from a gallery in Berlin.” He beam.
Hockney stopped by on a short visit to England from his beloved new home in Normandy to see an exhibition of his work at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Hockney’s Eyes: The art and technique of depiction is otherwise open for him on holidays, with selected curators and friends waiting for his arrival. Feeling waiting for the royal audience, when he finally enters the wheelchair pushed by his partner Jean-Pierre Gonzalves de Lima (JP), everyone gathers in a gentle awe. ..
The 84-year-old artist now wears typical stylish clothing such as blue and yellow check suits, light blue socks, white shoes, red ties, flat caps, and large round gold-framed eyeglasses. The mood is modest when you go to see portraits in the dark gallery. But when Bertwell arrived, among Hockney’s 1970-71 masterpieces Clark and Percy, arguably the same woman with her golden hair shining in the sun, confronting the greenish blinds. When you arrive, everything changes.
At that time, Bertwell was married to Ossie Clark. She was a well-known textile designer and her husband was a fashion guru. He sits in a chair with the white cat Percy spread out on his lap, and Bertwell is depicted standing and engaging Hockney’s eyes in dark blue and red. Hockney later painted Celia alone, many times in different clothes and naked. She kisses him in his wheelchair. She has gray hair, shines, and is small – I understand that Hockney made her look much bigger by seating her Clark.
Bertwell sees the best paintings on the show, Le Parc des Sauces in Visie, a vast and eerie beautiful view of grass and trees. She asks when Hockney painted it. “Just before I draw you!” He says with a grin to her. “This was a 1970 retrospective exhibition at Whitechapel. [Gallery].. And Clark and Percy weren’t because I was still doing that. “
This picture shows two men sitting in metal chairs painting enamel olives. They see two rows of tall trees in the cool, foggy morning light. “It’s Ossie Clark and Peter Schlesinger,” says Hockney. “Peter wore a snakeskin jacket.” Like many of Hockney’s unforgettable paintings in the early 1970s, this piece is full of tension and mystery. Schlesinger was Hockney’s lover. There is a third empty chair on the left. Did it belong to Hockney? Was it symbolic?
“Yes, that was the case,” he says. “I stood up to paint.” The vacant seats have a memorable presence, like Van Gogh’s chair. As Hockney observes, chairs can represent people: “They have arms and legs.” Hockney points to the border of the painting where the lawn meets the brown foreground. “It’s like a picture up there,” he says. “Then there are some seats in front.” In other words, it’s as if two men were sitting looking at a huge picture of the park. “It’s like the picture in the picture,” says Hockney.
In the next gallery, the artist’s iPad flower pictures transform each other on the screen inside the museum’s 17th-century Dutch flower paintings. “I was the first year I entered the Royal College of Arts,” he recalls. “There were no museums in Bradford or Leeds, so I thought I needed to catch up, so I went to a lot of small museums in London. I had all the little kids in London. Do you think you can go out to smoke? “
Outside, Hockney ignites Davidoff. “They are only sold in Germany and Switzerland, probably the Netherlands,” says JP, who wears a fawn suit and a blue-patterned shirt. His brown hair is a little wild and his beard is lightly grayed out. “I get them sent from Hans, Germany,” says Hockney. “He sends me 20 cartons (2,000 cigarettes) at a time. I keep them in the drawer.” Is it an addiction? “No, I enjoy it. Smoking is a lot of fun. Why do you disagree? Many people get lung cancer that doesn’t smoke.”
For Hockney, smoking is a symbol of freedom in the 1960s. He was a pioneer in this era of liberation and was probably the first artist to portray a male gay life without apologies or soap opera, as he and his friends happened to be alive. His portrait of Patrick Procktor shows that his fellow artists smoke in almost wild poses.
Hockney traces the tobacco and Bohemian equation back to Paris in the 19th century. “In Boston, there is a wonderful painting of Renoir where a couple is dancing. If you look carefully, there are lots of cigarette butts on the floor. They smoked while dancing. They had a good time – they did. Did! “He laughs.
Hockney is eager for JP to join the second cigarette. The reason he lives in France is smoking. What he considers to be basic freedom is currently limited in the United Kingdom and the United States. The two were only on this side of the channel for a few days, but they have already found a raging rule. They had dinner with the Master of Downing University and were told that smoking was prohibited on the campus of Cambridge University. Exhibition posters in the city use cut-out photographs to remove the cigarettes they had in their hands. In his time, Hockney said: I realized it was over now, so I was trapped in a nice Normandy house. There I can smoke and do what I want to do. And that’s where I’m staying. Shall we have lunch? “
The museum restaurant is closed on Mondays, so lunch is from Marks & Spencer.Hockney lacks French cuisine: he tells me how much he loves Andouille (Tripe sausage). I would like to hear about his hometown of Bradford being selected as the next cultural city in England. He didn’t know that and wasn’t very excited. “Well, I haven’t lived in Bradford since the 50’s,” he says. “All I go to is see the Saltyler.”
He mentions the Victorian industrial building Salt Mill in the village of Saltaire, which was reclaimed by his deceased friend Jonathan Silver. Hockney is definitely on display in the art gallery, displaying his photographs of Normandy’s spring, fragmented like a Bayeux tapestry. Therefore, Hockney may have made a cultural contribution to Bradford and helped his bid. “It must be the first exhibition to be held directly from the Orangerie Museum in Paris,” says the artist.
The conversation between him and his friends goes to Normandy and then to Yorkshire as he drinks rhubarb juice. So he and JP are planning to visit Hockney’s sister Margaret.
“She is 87 years old, but she’s still driving,” he says. “She can park.”
“Because she has a parking sticker for the disabled,” Bartwell adds. “very convenient.”
Margaret Hockney is deaf and reads the lips, which happens. Her brother’s deafness is probably one of the reasons he gets quiet during our talkative lunch and starts seeing his latest work on an iPad with his paint splattered. “Deafness is a handicap that hasn’t been properly evaluated yet,” JP tells me.
Hockney’s iPad images include pictures of Harry Styles portraits. During the pandemic, the artist portrayed nature (the arrival of spring in Normandy and the blooming of flowers) with a glowing iPad painting that was a moving pickup during the crisis. But in November, he returned to his portrait and painted the canvas with oil paint.
In fact, looking at his style portraits, he says, these works are made purely of paint. There are no drawings or initial contours. He just creates people with color. He adds that pop stars were a new challenge because he likes to draw friends. “If you know the face-you need to know a little face-I don’t know his face very well. Everyone’s face is a little different.” He pauses and thinks In summary, he says, “I still don’t know what people look like.”
It’s a caricature, an amazing statement from someone who has spent his life trying to capture the essence, and is full of doubt. Helps explain why he portrayed friends like Bertwell many times, as he is still trying to understand the truth. That is also the reason why he has doubts about photography. It tells us what people, landscapes and objects look like, as if it were a simple fixed fact. In contrast, the modern artist Hockney loves Picasso the most, and his cubism is the rejection of simple photography, exploring what things really are.
The first Picasso he saw was a replica of the Weeping Woman at the age of twelve. He put her hand on her face and imitated the characteristics of her crumpled holding her handkerchief. When curator Jane Manro brings Hockney a Picasso from the Fitzwilliam store, he takes it pious. This is a portrait of the dancer Lydia Lopokova, performed in the neoclassical style of Spain. It’s perfect, but Picasso soon began to distort his face again. “He was just attracted to something else,” says Hockney. “He had other things to do.”
Does this also apply to Hockney, who returned from landscape painting to freehand portraiture in the mid-1980s? “I’m always doing something else,” he says. “Yeah. They can discuss everything they want about the past, but I just ride something else.”