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 order from our bookshop

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney


Thames & Hudson 248pp £18.95 order from our bookshop

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.

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