David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset
Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
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. Born in 1937 in Bradford, David Hockney had to fight to become an artist. After leaving 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 decriminalised, 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.
One of the most famous painters from these shores is one I have come to admire through many years. David Hockney: A Life (Arcadia Books) by Catherine Cusset is a fascinating and interesting ‘novel’ about the man himself and written before the author meeting David Hockney.
This was one of those books that I really was not sure about before I started reading as this is a novel about the man himself not a biography. But in the end I was actually really pleased that I did. Hockney was born in Bradford in July 1937 and later studied at the local School of Art before heading to London to study at the Royal College of Art.
What Cusset does in her novel is to write a fictional account of the painter’s life from his humble start from a family with little money to his determination to focus on his love of art and to achieve his goal. Using a mix of fact and fiction Cusset tells her story of Hockney’s life through the decades, the success and awards that followed but also the tragedies in his life. What I enjoyed reading about the paintings and making a note of them and later just spending time looking them up.
It is a brave step to write a novel about someone who is still alive and then later meeting them in person. I did wonder how that meeting went. But credit to Cusset as I found her writing to be vivid and shows a love for David Hockney from his days on both sides of the Atlantic. Not a man who paints to a trend but one who follows his own unique style and this is what made him one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Now in his early 80’s David Hockney keeps fit by swimming for half an hour each morning and can stand at his easel for more than six hours a day painting. An enjoyable read.
Thank you Anna Zanetti (Midas PR) for the review copy of David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset
David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset was published by Arcadia Publishing and was published on 12th November 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshops. UK Bookshop.org