David Hockney says living in 'isolation' in rural French countryside during lockdown was 'marvellous'

David Hockney at Salts MillDavid Hockney at Salts Mill
David Hockney at Salts Mill
Artist David Hockney has described living in near isolation in Normandy during the first coronavirus lockdown as “marvellous” – and the inspiration for his new exhibition.

The 83-year-old said living for the last two years in a “higgledy-piggledy” house in the middle of the northern French countryside meant he had no interruptions and allowed him to paint without distraction.

Hockney had already started what would become his new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art when the pandemic began.

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“It was fantastic. When the lockdown came, I think it was marvellous because I wanted to be isolated anyway,” Hockney said.

“That’s why I’d come here. It meant there were no visitors, we didn’t go out to restaurants and I could just explore the whole place.

“I was doing one or two a day and I could think about them when I went to bed, and I wasn’t thinking about somebody coming tomorrow for lunch.

“That is all I could think about, and I thought it made a vast difference actually. I don’t think I would have done any if visitors had been coming, I know I wouldn’t.

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“It’s only a small house and three of us live here and if anybody comes, they have to stay at a little place down the road or a little place in Beuvron.

“There’s no big hotels here. It is very isolated and I always knew I would need some isolation to do anything good for me at my age now.”

The Bradford-born artist was speaking at the Hay Festival a few days after his latest exhibition, The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 opened in London.

The exhibition showcases 116 paintings Hockney created on an iPad during the spring of last year.

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Later this year, his work will also be exhibited in Paris’s Musée de l’Orangerie in which he has created a Bayeux Tapestry-style 80-metre long frieze depicting the succession of the Normandy seasons.

“I’ve just started another painting in the studio and I’ll go back to painting but I am also doing the spring of 2021 as well,” Hockney said.

Hockney said he thought he had found the equivalent of Monet’s Giverny, where he created some of his most famous paintings.

“I feel like staying and staying. The spring this year was two weeks later than last year. Every year it is different, and every moment is different,” he said.

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“I think that is rather marvellous for me at my age. I can look at things and realise that nothing is static, and I think it is very exciting.

“I’ve always thought that painters live in the now. I’m almost 84. How much longer do I have? I’m still a smoker.

“I think I am really living in the now.”

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