On a gloomy January morning in Covid-ridden Paris when nothing seemed to be going right, my spirits suddenly lifted when I walked into the Galerie Lelong in the eighth arrondissement and got an eyeful of David Hockney’s recent paintings, made in Normandy, where he has been living for the past year or so.
The exhibition, “David Hockney: Ma Normandie,” proves that the 83-year-old Hockney is still reveling in nature, in this case the property around his traditional 17th-century half-timbered house, and that his penchant for vibrant, contrasting colors still has the ability to turn a dark day bright.
Tired of the unchanging weather in Southern California, where he has long had a home, Hockney took inspiration from Normandy’s seasonal variations and from a visit to the Bayeux Tapestry. The latter led him to sketch a scroll-like series depicting a 360-degree view of what can be seen from one point, which includes everything from trees and parked cars to a child’s swing and a treehouse. One can almost imagine Hockney sitting on a swivel chair and spinning around just a bit to capture the whole scene around him from different points of view and in different seasons. This work is no longer on view in Lelong’s second Paris gallery, but the main exhibition has been extended until February 27, 2021. The plan is to make large-format prints of his iPad drawings of changing nature over the course of a whole year.
The color combinations here are calmer and more natural and less stridently Fauvist (beautifully so) than the California paintings seen at the Hockney retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2017. Hockney’s latest works focus on the overwhelming greenness of Normandy, except when Hockney goes into town – the village of Beuvron-en-Auge – where the startlingly bright red and contrasting blue of the buildings on the circular square, seen from above, are not exactly true to life but create a charmingly folksy view of the town.
“Trees Mist” (2019), the one painting in soft, subdued shades, stands out from the others and successfully evokes a Norman field shrouded in fog, with the sky painted in Van Gogh-like squiggly gray-blue strokes and the ground and path in impressionistic green and blue dots – a nod to some of his predecessors in the area.
In addition to the acrylic paintings in the main space, there are a number of prints made from iPad drawings and paintings, some of them color tests and others depictions of the exterior and interior of the house, most winningly a painting of a fire blazing in the stone hearth, which appeared on the cover of The New Yorker in December. Most of the works can be seen on the website of the Galerie Lelong.
For those who will be in London later in the year, the exhibition “David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020” is scheduled for the Royal Academy of Arts from March 27 to August 22, 2021. It will then come to the Musée de l’Orangerie in the fall.
In the meantime, for a blast of happiness during this grim season, pay a visit to the Galerie Lelong. It will make your day.Favorite