David Hockney immortilises his time in Normandy with vibrant digital frieze

The dazzling colours of the Normandy countryside are a perfect fit for Hockney.
The dazzling colours of the Normandy countryside are a perfect fit for Hockney. © AFP/Thomas Coex

British painter David Hockney, one of the world's most popular living painters whose works fetch millions, shows his new offering, "A Year in Normandie". The 90-metre long frieze, created on iPad and inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, will light up the main gallery of the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris until 14 February 2022.


Hockney has been living in Normandy, western France, since the beginning of 2019.

For the last two years, the 84-year-old painter drew his inspiration from the landscapes of the Pays d'Auge, but also from the famous Bayeux Tapestry, the 70-metre long frieze recounting the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, in the 11th century.

"This embroidery fascinates David Hockney. This narration takes the viewer along this medieval story, almost as a wanderer, because you have to walk to look at this story, to follow it," Musée de l’Orangerie director Cécile Debray told RFI.

"It is a way of representing historical facts or a history that is much more sensitive, much more emotional." .

In March 2020, Hockney begun his project inspired by the tapestry, depicting the arrival of spring in the form of a narrative cycle.

As soon as his project was begun, the first wide-lockdown was imposed in France. Within a few weeks, he created more than 100 images on an iPad, a technique he has been using since 2010.

He painted spring, and then the other three seasons, an entire year in Normandy.

Digital art

His work is completely digital. It is a printout, based on a composition that Hockney made on the pattern.

He used a specific graphic palette with a colour chart of many shades to capture the effects of light and climate changes.

"It is really a snapshot in the manner of what Monet did in his garden at Giverny ... a kind of dialogue with "Water Lilies"," explains Debray.

The frieze is made of a succession of small compositions that Hockney put together.

He painted 220 of them, and chose a few to make up this walk. "It's like sequence of shots in a film.

"When moving from one composition to another, he doesn't bother at all with the need to camouflage it. He is an artist who plays with these collages. He has previously made works that assemble polaroids, and this is the same approach here."

Moving gaze

It's the work of an artist who is 84 years old, and who is somewhat in the twilight of his life.

"It's probably no coincidence that he placed this work under a maxim by La Rochefoucauld," says Debray.

"Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily."

The term "steadily" is interesting because Hockney prefers a moving gaze. But there is also a slightly philosophical background on the vanity of our lives, and the strength and aesthetic power of nature.

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