Hockney: The Biography, Volume 1 – 1937–1975 by Christopher Simon Sykes; A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford - review by William Feaver

William Feaver

A Modern Rubens

Hockney: The Biography, Volume 1 – 1937–1975


Century 363pp £25

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney


Thames & Hudson 248pp £18.95

Books on David Hockney, ranging from the classic David Hockney by David Hockney of 1976 to countless Hockney catalogues, are frequent reminders that he commands attention. What a one he is for switching focus and skewing perspectives – widescreen one year, iPad the next. What a demon he is for addictions such as smoking and painting. Were he to accept a knighthood, which is unlikely, he could emerge from the Palace, light up, and declare himself a true successor to Sir Peter Paul Rubens. His pertinacity is as engaging as his zest for new means and new ends.

The Hockney of caricature – hair bleached, gadding abroad from Kensington Gore to Muscle Beach – has become a greying figure. Bridlington is his manor, his hinterland the Yorkshire Wolds. Once so golden, so twinkle-toed, he now addresses the nation as a national treasure should, getting us to recognise in paintings of suburb-an avenues and may-blossomed lanes the lineaments of a renewal. It’s not so much the transfer from Los Angeles to East Yorkshire that’s so striking; it’s the pitch of his enthusiasms, his zeal for apostrophising the seasons, for harvesting the very nature of sparsity, growth and profusion.

I remember him once at

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