Publication Date: May 14, 2019
With clear, vivid prose, this meticulously researched novel draws an intimate, moving portrait of the most famous living English painter.
Born in 1937 in a small town in the north of England, David Hockney had to fight to become an artist. After leaving his home in Bradford for the Royal College of Art in London, his career flourished, but he continued to struggle with a sense of not belonging, because of his homosexuality, which had yet to be decriminalized, and his inclination for a figurative style of art not sufficiently “contemporary” to be valued. Trips to New York and California–where he would live for many years and paint his iconic swimming pools–introduced him to new scenes and new loves, beginning a journey that would take him through the fraught years of the AIDS epidemic.
A compelling hybrid of novel and biography, Life of David Hockney offers an accessible overview of the painter who shook the world of art with a vitality and freedom that neither heartbreak nor illness nor loss could corrode.
Excerpt from Life of David Hockney
It was an extraordinary summer. He left Mark’s parents’ house—they had become tired of the eccentricities of their son’s friends—and moved to Brooklyn, where Ferrill had a small, comfortable apartment with thick carpeting that swallowed your feet, a TV, and a real bathroom. David didn’t know anyone that young who lived in such a luxurious place. But the way Ferrill lived surprised him even more; you went into his place as you would a turnstile: you took a shower with him, you slipped into his bed, then you would leave. Free love, without ties, without jealousy, without guilt. Just pleasure to give and receive. It was the life David wanted. So long, Bradford! Even London seemed grim in comparison.
When he finally decided to contact the head of the department of prints at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, whose name Mr. Erskine had given him, another surprise awaited him: not only did the man know who he was, and said he had been eager to meet him—he had received a letter from Erskine recommending his brilliant protégé—not only did he look at the etchings that David had brought from London, but he bought them! David couldn’t believe it. He was still a student and the MoMA in New York was acquiring his etchings. What generosity, and how easy life was in America!
“Fagan’s translation from the French reveals a delicate, empathetic writer unabashedly following Hockney from his birth in 1937 with sympathy and understanding…Cusset gets him—you should too.” —Boston Herald
“Cusset magnificently pays homage to the artist, revisiting half a century of art history.” —Lire
“At the heart of this exercise in admiration, David Hockney is not only the artist who loves swimming pools, beautiful boys, trees, and the English countryside. He also appears as a fragile hero.” —L’Obs
“A work halfway between novel and biography, which plunges us into the fascinating world of the famous British figurative artist.” —La Presse