All you need is love – and a cheese sandwich

Discerning palette: One of Hockney’s vibrant paintings of the Normandy countryside. © David Hockney

Are food and love the only real things in life? At the age of 82, Britain’s greatest living painter, David Hockney, has written a moving letter telling the world his deepest convictions.

Britain’s greatest living artist, David Hockney, has written a letter summing up his philosophy of life, accompanied by nine new iPad paintings.

Hockney is in lockdown in France, with two assistants and his dog Ruby. His paintings, which he hopes will give people “a respite from the news”, show flowers emerging and trees bursting into blossom. One is called Do Remember They Can’t Cancel the Spring.

Reflecting on the pandemic, he writes: “We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it. This will in time be over and then what? What have we learned? I am 83 years old, I will die. The cause of death is birth.

“The only real things in life are food and love in that order […] the source of art is love.”

Other people across the ages have attached enormous significance to food, and not just as something to keep us alive. The essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote: “Neither the greatest captains nor the greatest philosophers have disdained the use or science of eating well.”

As for love, the philosopher Socrates declared: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life, and that word is love.”

Are food and love the only things that really matter in life?

Vital ingredients

Some say that Hockney is right. Food is the essential thing that keeps us alive, and connects us to the natural world; love is what makes life worth living. We enjoy many of our happiest experiences when the two come together, such as celebrations with friends and family.

Others argue that it is ridiculous to make so much fuss about food. A lot of people do not particularly care about what they eat. Those who are very religious would say that faith is far more important, since it gives meaning and purpose to a life than can otherwise often feel painfully pointless.

You Decide

  1. What is the most delicious food you have ever tasted?

Activities

  1. Do your own painting of a spring scene in a style similar to David Hockney’s.

Some People Say...

“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.”

Sam Keen, American philosopher

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Food has inspired many writers and artists. The key moment in one of the greatest novels ever written, Remembrance of Things Past by the French author Marcel Proust, comes when the narrator dips a small cake called a madeleine into a cup of tea – and is carried back to his childhood by the taste. Bowls of fruit have inspired still-life paintings by artists from Caravaggio to Cézanne. And love has probably inspired more poetry than anything else, including Shakespeare’s sonnets.
What do we not know?
Whether the artists of the future will follow tradition and paint on canvas, or whether they will rely on digital technology. Hockney has always embraced new media, from Polaroid photographs to the iPad, while insisting that photography cannot replace painting.

Word Watch

Respite
A rest or break from.
83 years old
Hockney is wrong about his age. He isn’t 83 until July this year!
Michel de Montaigne
A French writer (1533-1592) who is credited with inventing the essay as a type of writing.
Disdained
Rejected, ignored, or considered unworthy.
Socrates
An Athenian thinker (c470-399BC), regarded as one of the founders of Western philosophy.

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