This weekend, David Hockney will help inaugurate Pace gallery’s sprawling new headquarters in New York with a panoramic exhibition of new landscape drawings.
Aesthetically, the bright, breezy illustrations feel right at home within Hockney’s well-defined oeuvre. Yet they also represent a significant change for the venerable British artist: After decades in LA, the city with which he’s become synonymous, the artist is moving to France, and his new works depict the gardens outside his new house in Normandy.
The reason? Strict American anti-smoking laws.
“I’d like to just work and paint,” the notoriously chain-smoking artist told the Wall Street Journal in a recent profile, explaining that Americans have become too severe when it comes to his favorite habit—particularly in Los Angeles, where it’s illegal to smoke in public places, including outside restaurants and bars. “The French know how to live. They know about pleasure.”
Anti-smoking campaigner Stuart Holmes interrupts a photo-call by British artist and smoking advocate David Hockney at the Labour Party Conference in 2005. (Alessandro Abbonizio/AFP/Getty Images)
In France, the octogenarian artist has the luxury of eating and smoking at the same time. “I’ve smoked for more than 60 years,” Hockney says. “But I think I’m quite healthy. I’m 82. How much longer do I have? I’m going to die of either a smoking-related illness or a non-smoking-related illness.”
Last year, after debuting a new set of stained glass windows designed on his iPad for London’s Westminster Abbey, Hockney spent some time in Northern France. On a lark, he purchased a 17th-century garden home lined with hawthorn thickets and apple, cherry, and pear trees.
Installation view of “David Hockney: La Grande Cour, Normandy,” 2019. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.
So inspired was Hockney that he depicted just about every inch of his new home. The 24-panel suite of drawings, titled “La Grande Cour” (the big yard) after the name of the property, was also influenced by Chinese scroll painting and the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230-foot-long medieval cloth that illustrates the Norman conquest of England. The whole suite took Hockney 21 days to finish.
Indeed, Hockney is as productive as ever—a fact that’s not lost on the artist, who has time on his mind. “I’ve probably not much time left, and because I don’t, I value it even more,” he told the WSJ. But certainly not enough to stop smoking. If he’s lasted this long, why quit now?
“David Hockney: La Grande Cour, Normandy” will be on view at Pace’s New York headquarters from September 14–October 19, 2019.
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