Most of Hockney’s early Normandy paintings are of trees and hedgerows and seem like a natural continuation of his Yorkshire paintings. But he gradually adds other subjects — most interestingly and successfully, the stream at the bottom of his garden. The last painting in the book is of the stream in November last year and is so vigorous and detailed you feel you could fish in it. With his California swimming pool pictures, he was interested in the reflections and the splash; now he’s interested in the flow of water, the ripples and eddies as it runs against obstacles.
Gayford is a thoughtfully attentive critic with a capacious frame of reference and his brief excursions into houses in art, Hockney’s reading (Flaubert, Proust, Julian Barnes), his musical tastes (Wagner), and that almost definitive Hockney subject, the depiction of water – described by Hockney as always a “nice problem“ for an artist – consistently illuminate both Hockney’s work and the other artists his work brings to mind. (It should be added that the reader can see in the comprehensive illustrations almost everything Gayford mentions.)