David Hockney says he is moving to France, where he can smoke freely and work ‘twice as much’

David Hockney says he is moving to France, where he can smoke freely and work ‘twice as much’
Leading lights  -   Artists

Despite being from Bradford, a city in the northern English county of West Yorkshire, David Hockney has called Los Angeles home since he moved there in 1964. Arguably its most famous artist, Hockney has revealed plans to leave the city where he painted some of his greatest works, and relocate to France.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, the 82-year-old artist said that he is relocating to Normandy so that he can eat and smoke simultaneously, and freely.

“I’d like to just work and paint,” he said, two days before his scheduled move. “The French know how to live. They know about pleasure.”

Once deemed America’s most libertine cities, Los Angeles has now become a place of strict clean living. It enforces some of the country’s strictest laws against smoking, which is banned in all public places including outside restaurants and bars.

“I’ve smoked for more than 60 years but I think I’m quite healthy. I’m 82. How much longer do I have? I’m going to die of either a smoking-related illness or a non–smoking-related illness.”

Elaborating on his plans to move to Normandy, it all sounded serendipitous and not entirely thought out. He said he had impulsively decided to purchase a home in Normandy last year after he fell in love with a property he saw for less than 30 minutes. Hockney was vacationing in France at the time, after celebrating the completion of a stained-glass window he had designed for Westminster Abbey, celebrating the Queen’s reign.

As Hockney frequently mentions in interviews, he repeated that he remains uninterested in personal fame and enjoys living in seclusion. “I have the vanity of an artist,” he said. “I want my work to be seen. But I don’t have to be seen.” The seclusion offered in the Northern French city was certainly an appealing factor in his decision to relocate but he also said that he has been far more productive in France. He said that Normandy already feels like home and that he “can do twice as much work there, three times as much”.

When asked about his routine in France, he described a rather simple one. He wakes up early enough to catch the sunrise, and follows it with a full morning’s work. He then has a four-course midday lunch at a local cafe, which he emphasised is €13 and his only meal of the day, and then naps and works into the evening.

His house in Normandy dates back to the 1650’s. Its arrangement of pear, cherry and apple trees mixed with hawthorn thickets and elderflower patches make a strong appearance in his new 24-panel work which will go on display in New York later this month.

One of Hockney’s works, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), became the most expensive painting sold by a living artist when it was auctioned off for £72m. This has never interested Hockney and he has been vocal about his indifference.

“I want to ignore it, mostly,” he said. “I’ve had sufficient money to do what I liked every day for the last 60 years. Even when I didn’t have much money, I’ve always managed. All I’m interested in is working, really. I’m going to go on working. Artists don’t retire.”

Discussing his work, he revealed that he holds on to a third or half of all his pieces. This is because he decides to keep what he considers as the best ones to himself. He said he has not made any plans for a collection, but will probably give it away to museums.