Melvyn Bragg

My lunch with Salman Rushdie

[Getty Images]

I have just come back from spending some days with David Hockney at his house in Normandy. We are making a film about him – the longest film about a single subject I have ever attempted. Like Monet’s, Hockney’s environment is his subject. The great sequence of ‘The Four Seasons’ is from his grounds. He finds all the different blossoms he needs there, and there is a river and a pond. His friend has turned an old barn into a magnificent studio. David is in his mid-eighties but is as sharp as he was the first time I interviewed him for The South Bank Show in 1978. Since then, there have been several films, on his exploration of photography and the camera (and the distinction between those two), on Chinese scrolls, on the countryside near Bridlington and now there is another move forward with his remarkable new exhibition Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) at Lightroom Kings Cross. He has had more than 400 exhibitions and his hundreds of iPad sketches have revolutionised that medium, or indeed created it as a medium. He works from dawn to dusk every day, save when there are interruptions like filming or travelling. He fulfils one of the best remarks about art, delivered by Blake: ‘Without unceasing practice nothing can be done.’ An hour or two after the crew had packed up and were ready to leave, I went to say goodbye in his studio and… he was painting. I think there is something of the genius about him.

I went across to Trouville while I was staying with Hockney, and was struck by the extraordinary neatness and order of the place. In the hotel were massive black and white photographs of Trouville in Edwardian times when those going for a walk along the front seemed dressed as if setting out for a ball.

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