In March last year, at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Hockney settled in Normandy with the intention of capturing spring’s joyful arrival, documenting the buds blooming on the fruit trees and the greening hedgerows. He would draw each day on his trusty iPad (Hockney started sketching on an iPad back in 2010) armed with made-to-measure brushes and using a new app developed to his specific requirements.
The sketches, Hockney calls them paintings, are a direct homage to French impressionists – Hockney’s Normandy home is a few miles away from Monet’s house of Giverny where the impressionist artist painted the arrival of spring in the darkest time of the First World War – and they are an ode to joy.
Viewing the sketches a year later, as we are tentatively stepping towards normality, is also a reminder of the comfort we found in nature during our months of lockdown.
Some critics have found the rendering of the sketches printed on canvas flat and uninspiring. I thought the opposite. As part of a generation that buys art on Instagram, I thought their slick and translucent finish was particularly enticing and that the whole project felt accessible and appealing at once. When starting his project in March last year, Hockney said he wanted to demonstrate to French art critics that painting is not dead. Embracing new technologies, he's made his point, for walking around the gallery is a pure pleasure.
David Hockney, No. 316, 30th April 2020 iPad painting © David Hockney
This is not the first time Hockney has had a major exhibition focused on the shifting seasons. Between 2003 and 2013 he painted the countryside of his native Yorkshire, rendering the sweeping landscape in vibrant hues as it changed throughout the year. Many of these works were displayed in his 2012 exhibition David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, which filled the Royal Academy’s galleries from floor to ceiling with paintings, charcoals, iPad drawings and multiscreen videos. His May show, which the Royal Academy promises will be full of ‘large scale and densely hung’ works, is set to be similarly exuberant.
David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 is running in the main galleries until Sunday 1 August. It then moves to the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries from Sunday 8 August until Sunday 26 September.
|What||David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy|
|Where||Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Green Park (underground)|
23 May 21 – 26 Sep 21, 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here for more information|