Updated on 21 June 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes
David Hockney is undoubtedly one of the most famous and multidisciplinary artists of his generation. He now lives and works in Normandy, where he spent much of 2020 creating The Arrival of Spring (currently on display at the Royal Academy in London) and the ever-changing lights of the Normandy countryside. Let’s take a tour of all the places associated with the modern master of colour…
How Hockney fell in love with Normandy
Rightly considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, David Hockney has been delighting and challenging audiences for over 60 years. Having lived and worked in London, Los Angeles, Paris, Malibu and Bridlington (Yorkshire), he has now settled in Normandy, where he has found a space to create his art in peace. It was during a four-day road trip through northern and western France in October 2018 that the artist fell in love with Normandy. He watched the sun set over the docks in Le Havre, so famously captured by Monet in his painting Impression, sunrise, enjoyed a meal in Honfleur, pushed himself around the Bayeux Tapestry in a wheelchair, and immediately decided that this was where he wanted to live. A few weeks later, Hockney ended up buying the first house he looked at, a beautiful 17th-century country home complete with cider press converted into a studio. He has since been capturing the play of light on his garden and landscapes across the region.
Home sweet home
The house Hockney immediately fell in love with lies just outside the picture-perfect village of Beuvron-en-Auge, ten miles south of Cabourg. Beuvron-en-Auge is packed with historic half and full timbered buildings and is in the centre of the main apple growing area of Normandy used to make our world-famous cider, pommeau and of course Calvados. It is officially labelled one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France‘ and is famed for its half-timbered houses, quaint cafés and brocantes. The village is so quintessentially Norman that it would have been hard for Hockney to find somewhere more picturesque to live!
Calvados and the Pays d’Auge
Beuvron-en-Auge is nestled in the heart of the pays d’Auge, which has been known since the Middle Ages for its apples, cheese, horses and cows. Just picture authentic timber-framed houses with Norman cows peacefully grazing grass under apple trees in bloom: this scene is emblematic of this beautiful part of Normandy, where some of our most famous food and drink is made, including the Calvados brandy and Pont-l’Evêque cheese. All of the landscapes drawn or painted by Hockney which feature in his latest exhibition are those of the Pays d’Auge. A great way to discover this lush and colourful area of Normandy is to stroll, cycle or ride the Normandy Cider Route, a well-marked route that introduces visitor to local apple cider and Calvados brandy. Head here either in spring when the blossom is out, or in autumn when the leaves start to turn an array of yellows, oranges and reds. Many of Hockney’s Normandy works actually feature apple and pear trees in bloom!
Hockney and the Bayeux Tapestry
It’s no secret that Hockney is a huge fan of the Bayeux Tapestry. He first saw the Tapestry in 1967 when he toured France to visit Europe’s greatest medieval textiles, and was mesmerised by it. Now aged 85, the artist is preparing to show one massive ‘Bayeux-Tapestry-styled’ picture, which is 90m long (longer than the tapestry itself) and depicts a whole year in Normandy, in Bayeux!
Indeed, an exhibition of Hockney’s work ‘A Year in Normandie’ will begin at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum this autumn. The original work, recently presented in the main gallery of the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, takes the form of a 90-meter long frieze celebrating the arrival of spring in the Normandy countryside. Painted on an IPad, it was greatly inspired by the thousand-year-old narrative embroidery. From 22 September, the Bayeux exhibition will bring Hockney’s frieze and its muse together in an unprecedented face-à-face, in the form of half scale reproductions of the monumental works shown on the second floor of the museum.
This dialogue between the famous embroidery and David Hockney’s imposing work of art will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the two narratives simultaneously. Visitors will thus be able to observe and compare the stylised representations of trees in the Tapestry with the fruit trees in the artist’s orchard. “If you look closely, the two masterpieces, with admittedly very different artistic techniques, immortalise a specific moment in time. Both freeze-frame a conquest: that of a Norman Duke in England in the 11th century for one, and that of nature in Normandy and its constant renewal regardless of human turmoil for the other,” explains Antoine Verney, curator of the Museums of Bayeux.
The newly-opened Villa du Temps Retrouvé, in the romantic seaside resort of Cabourg, is one of the only museums in Normandy where you can find one of Hockney’s works. It depicts Beuvron-en-Auge’s central market square, with its beautiful buildings, lively cafés and neighbouring countryside. The Villa du Temps Retrouvé itself, a brand new museum in a historic villa boasting some prestigious collections, is well worth a visit. Thanks to Marcel Proust, visitors can discover the French Belle Époque and find out what everyday life was like during the golden age of Cabourg and the Flowered Coast.