In June 2013, art critic Martin Gayford received a message from David Hockney. It said that he was leaving Yorkshire to return to Los Angeles and he might be staying there for some time.
Hockney's relocation to LA came after a disastrous few months in the artist's personal life. In autumn 2012 he suffered a minor stroke and temporarily almost lost his speech. A tree that he often painted was felled in an act of vandalism that sent him into depression. In March, one of his assistants, Dominic Elliott died as a result of misadventure when he drank acid after taking a range of drugs. Hockney almost gave up painting.
The artist found inspiration in Los Angeles again, painting his assistant John-Pierre with his head in his hands. This image of deep despondency, which Hockney calls a self-portrait, was the catalyst for a new ambitious phase of work.
He began painting figures sat on the same chair against the same plain backdrop. The sitters' variety of figures, poses and clothes reinvigorated Hockney, as he recruited more and more characters for his ""Human Comedy."" The results would become a single series of portraits to be displayed at Hockney's second show at the Royal Academy in four years, '82 Portraits and One Still Life,' opening in July.
As the series began to take shape, in December 2013, Martin flew to California to sit. He'll re-visit the process of being painted by Britain's most famous artist and he'll interview Hockney about his life in Los Angeles, portraiture and this astonishing new chapter in his career.
Producer: Paul Smith
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4
David Hockney painting Martin Gayford, Los Angeles, 5 December 2013 (c) David Hockney
Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Goncalves de Lima.
David Hockney embarks on an ambitious new portrait series from his Californian studio.