Spring Cannot be Cancelled is David Hockney’s manifesto for how art and nature will get us through
In a new book co-authored by the artist’s longtime friend and collaborator Martin Gayford, Hockney shares vibrant new work from his Normandy farmhouse and his views on the importance of our reconnection with nature.
- Jenny Brewer
- 24 March 2021
After he turned 80, David Hockney upped sticks and moved to a rural farmhouse in Normandy, in search of tranquillity and a place to live undisturbed and undistracted. So when lockdown struck, life wasn’t that different for the artist. In fact, as he shares in a new book, Spring Cannot be Cancelled, he relished the isolation as an opportunity for even greater devotion to his work. The book, as well as an upcoming show at the Royal Academy, is a testament to this thriving period in the artist’s career, featuring hundreds of new paintings bringing the beauty of his new surroundings to his canvas.
The book is co-authored by Hockney’s longtime friend and collaborator, art critic Martin Gayford, and compiles years of written correspondence between the pair as they discuss Hockney’s work, inspirations and influences, as well as the art world, and life in the country. It is a warm and candid peek into Hockney’s thought process and the friends’ relationship, visually peppered with hundreds of images. These include new and previously unpublished Hockney paintings and drawings, as well as works by Monet, Hokusai, Van Gogh and Hiroshige which Hockney discusses and refers to in his writings.
Overall the book acts as Hockney’s manifesto for how a reconnection with art and nature could get society through much of its tribulations. “We have lost touch with nature, rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it,” he writes in the book. “This [the pandemic] will in time be over and then what? What have we learned?… The only real things in life are food and love, in that order, just like [for] our little dog Ruby… and the source of art is love. I love life.”
Hockney also has a show coming up at the Royal Academy dedicated to this subject, titled The Arrival of Spring, Normandy 2020. The work being displayed was produced while the Covid-19 pandemic was first unfolding and Hockney, like everyone else, was in lockdown. His ethos, as discussed in the book, was to focus on nature and the emergence of spring, and with this work, he urges people to reconnect with the natural world.
In July 2020, Hockney wrote that the arrival of spring in Normany is “the most exciting thing nature has to offer in this part of the world. When the lockdown came... we were in a house in the middle of a four-acre field full of fruit trees. I could concentrate on one thing, I did at least one drawing a day with the constant changes going on, all around the house. I kept drawing the winter trees, and then the small buds that became the blossom, and then the full blossom. Then the leaves started, and eventually, the blossom fell off leaving a small fruit and leaves, this process took about two weeks, all the time I was getting better at my mark-making on the screen, eventually doing, à la Monet, the water lilies in the pond.”
Spring Cannot be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy by Martin Gayford and David Hockney is published by Thames & Hudson on 25 March 2021. (www.thamesandhudson.com)
David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 opens 27 March – 22 August 2021 at the Royal Academy, London.
David and Ruby in the Normandy studio, 25 May 2020 (Copyright © David Hockney, 2020) Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima. From Spring Cannot be Cancelled, published by Thames & Hudson.
About the Author
After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.
Jenny is currently on maternity leave.