European Diary

I'd Walk a Mile for a Hockney

On occasion I have written here about the evils of photography, while other readers of this magazine may remember my having voiced more general apprehensions with respect to the transformation undergone by the human mind in an age when, by pressing a button, a suburban housewife may proclaim herself Baudelaire or Monet.  Recently, I found an unlikely ally in my anxiety.

David Hockney is a homosexual, but a painter.  The inversion is justified, as I believe it is in his own case, by the venerable tradition among artists of exploring the precincts of Hell, a tradition ascending not only to Michelangelo but to the far more gifted, yet no less troubled, Francis Bacon.  At any rate, such is my own considered opinion.

In art, exceptions are the rule.  Milton, who indelibly infected English prosody with the HIV of blank verse, is the author of one of the most beautiful poems in the language, whose appearance created nearly as many opportunities for future English poets as it has destroyed.  Compare this with the achievement of a technocrat like Gutenberg, who, aspiring to affirm Christianity and its culture, invented an infernal machine that undermined the apostolic continuity of the Church and eventually turned European culture to newsprint, tax manuals, and Harlequin romances.

The painter Hockney is the Milton of technological progress, rather than one of its numberless Gutenbergs.  In January, La Fondation...

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