There was one significant painting missing from the Whitechapel show, listed in the catalogue as number 70.2, Untitled, A Portrait of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, Unfinished.” The proposed wedding portrait as yet only existed in the form of countless photographs and a few drawings. Writing long after the wedding in August 1969, Clark remembered, “Married Celia … DH gave picture for wedding present—Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, later sold to pay deposit on house,”1 which was a case of his memory playing tricks on him. Not only did Hockney never give this work to the Clarks, but he did not even begin work on it till April or May 1970, and he was not to complete it till May 1971.

Though Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy fits well in the canon of traditional English wedding portraits, such as Arthur Devis’s Mr. and Mrs. Atherton and Gainsborough’s Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, it also defies convention by having the man seated and the woman standing, swapping the customary position of the figures, which immediately makes it stand out. “Because it is the reverse of normal,” says Hockney, “people read things into it, but I just thought it looked better that way, and Ossie must have done it naturally as I don’t tell my sitters to do too much. I just watch them.”2 The picture does tell a story, however, of two people together but apart; she stands, serene and beautiful, looking directly at the artist, a slight look of sadness in her eyes, while he slouches rather sullenly in a chair, a cigarette in one hand, his right foot buried in the shagpile carpet, his thoughts perhaps drifting in the same direction as those of the cat sitting on his lap, staring out of the window. To model Percy, “they borrowed a stuffed white cat from a taxidermist, which was brilliantly funny,” recalls Birtwell. “People read all sorts of things about us from looking at the painting. They said they could see that the writing was on the wall, but it wasn’t. How could they know? David didn’t even know us that well.”3

Mr. and Mrs. Ossie Clark, Linden Gardens, London, 1970 (illustration credit 10.1)

“It turns out now,” Hockney says, “that it is quite a memorable painting, but when you’re doing it you don’t know that. I have no idea what makes a memorable picture. If I did there would be more of them.”4 Part of what makes it so striking is its size, ten foot by seven foot. Hockney made the picture so big because he wanted viewers to feel that they were in the room with the couple, but making this seem natural presented enormous problems, and he put blood, sweat and tears into the work in order to overcome them. The setting of the painting is the Clarks’ flat in Linden Gardens, which was painted first; Clark and Birtwell then came to Powis Terrace on numerous occasions during which Hockney attempted to paint them directly onto the painting of the room, an exercise made even more tricky by the fact that it was contre-jour. “The figures are nearly life-size; it’s difficult painting figures like that, and it was quite a struggle,” he wrote. “They posed for a long time, both Ossie and Celia. Ossie was painted many, many times; I took it out and put it in, out and in. I probably painted the head alone twelve times; drawn and painted and then completely removed, and then out in again and again. You can see that the paint gets thicker and thicker there.”5

Living with Schlesinger and working on a painting of this size made Hockney only too aware of the limitations of the Powis Terrace flat. He had lived there since 1962, and it had proved a perfect set of rooms for a single artist, but since the arrival of Schlesinger in his life, space had been at a premium, and when the lease of the adjoining flat came up, Hockney bought it and employed a young, very handsome architect, Tchaik Chassay, to create a lateral conversion. Fresh out of the Architectural Association, Chassay was living with Melissa North, Tony Richardson’s former girlfriend. He had ambitious plans for the new annexe, including a large dining room, a library and a beautiful new bathroom. In order to keep disruption to a minimum, it was agreed that the conversion work would go on quite separately, and only when it was complete would the builders break through to join the two flats together.

Schlesinger was excited about the new plan; he was beginning to find life in London a little claustrophobic in more senses than one. He worked hard at his painting and wanted to be thought of as an artist in his own right, but wherever he went he was always known as “David Hockney’s boyfriend.” He longed for his own identity, and the more Hockney painted and drew him, the more he felt that to most people he existed only as a sex object in his lover’s pictures. He yearned to be cherished emotionally as well as physically, but was unable to grasp that living with a great artist it was inevitable he would always come second. “At some point,” he says, “I began to feel a bit smothered. David is an overwhelming person, and with his painting there was not much room for me in that world.”6

Hockney was blissfully unaware of all this, either struggling with the problems presented by Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, during which time he would scarcely have even noticed Peter, or travelling with him and various other companions around the spas, museums and picture galleries of Europe, which made Schlesinger feel he was just part of the gang. In fact, when Schlesinger wasn’t around, such as on a trip to Vichy in August when he visited his parents in California instead, Hockney missed him dreadfully. He just didn’t tell him. “I am here getting cured again with Wayne, George and Mo,” he wrote to Henry Geldzahler on 7 August. “I must admit I can’t stand Peter being away much longer. His absence has made me very melancholic. It’s so pretty and he complements the surroundings so that it seems worse here than the more familiar Powis Terrace. Anyway he will be back in fourteen days. He sounds as though he quite enjoyed California. I thought he might, as this is the first time he could use the bars and night life.” After asking Geldzahler to telephone Schlesinger to give him his love and kisses, he added a PS: “I can’t phone him as his mother may answer.”7

When Hockney returned home from Vichy on 3 September, it was to face some worrying news about his own mother. Laura’s health had been poor for most of the year, starting with attacks of rheumatism and arthritis that had caused her constant pain and left her feeling tired and depressed. While Ken had done his best to persuade her to try acupuncture as a cure, Hockney had taken her to Harrogate to enquire about spa treatment, unfortunately to no avail. “I thought it had closed down,” she wrote in her diary on 20 May. “Found I was right … no spa waters on sale now. The pond room is turned into a Museum where we visited & also went down to see the well where water springs, which used to be used for healing. Had a glass of it which just tasted salty.”8 When an abdominal pain was diagnosed as a tumour on her bowel, she had an operation on 1 September; Hockney rushed up to Bradford to find her tired and sore, but on the mend, and living on a diet of soup and junket. He presented her with a bottle of spray perfume, which cheered her up immensely. His visit was short but sweet. “David came again and has now gone back to London & his travels,” she reported on 5 September. “His exhibition in Belgrade opens this week.”9

The exhibition, at the National Gallery in Belgrade, was the final stop on a European tour of his Whitechapel retrospective, which he and Schlesinger followed, first to Rotterdam and then Hanover, travelling by train, boat and bus—“getting about that way,” he said, “was much more fun than flying.”10 Writing to Henry Geldzahler, he described how beautiful the trip had been, in particular Marienbad and Karlsbad, both spas in which they took the waters. In Karlsbad he loved the “pine forests on the steep hills above the town. We took a little railway ride up one hill and walked back down through the pine forest in a marvellous rain storm. It really gave the place some Gothic gloom which I’m sure I’ve told you before, I love.” Schlesinger, however, seems to have got somewhat on his nerves. He “was a little disappointed at the lack of pretty trinckets [sic] and merchandise. Anyway on the drive back to Prague I gave him one of my sermonettes that seemed to put things right in his pretty little mind.” For the final leg of their trip, they took a Russian boat from Bratislava to Belgrade. “It was quite fantastic,” Hockney reported. “You must do it one day. It glides along the Danube at about 15 miles an hour. We had a cabin with a large window on the deck with the water only about three feet below. The whole experience is so placid you really get a rest.”11

The last three months of 1970 saw Hockney spending more time than usual in Bradford. Laura’s recuperation was a slow and painful process. She spent three weeks in hospital, then came home, to find Margaret had cleaned the place from top to bottom, much to her delight. “It just looked lovely,” she wrote in her diary on 19 September. And there was more: “Ken had a VERY BIG SURPRISE—a coloured Television. He has wanted one for a long time & thought I would like it too. It is a lovely piece of furniture and the colour is good.”12

Hockney didn’t see her till the beginning of October because he was working to finish a commission: to design a poster for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Out of twenty-nine international artists approached by the organising committee to produce posters representing the intertwining of sports and art worldwide, he was one of five from Great Britain, the others being Allen Jones, Ron Kitaj, Peter Phillips and Alan Davie. He chose water as his theme, and his design showed a diver breaking the surface of a typical Hockney swimming pool, its surface a myriad of swirling dappled ripples.

On his return from Munich to deliver his design, he drove up to Bradford for the day and took Ken and Laura to Ilkley for a short blow on the moors, followed by a quiet meal together. “It was good to see David,” she wrote. “He is so anxious to arrange for a holiday and recuperation.”13 A fortnight later, on 14 October, he was back, bringing Celia Birtwell, who was staying with friends nearby, and the following day they all went on a trip to Fountains Abbey, one of Laura’s favourite places. After that, work kept him away till December when he came up for his Aunt Audrey’s wedding, bringing Laura a beautiful Ossie Clark blouse as a gift. He then, wrote Laura, “suggested we should go & buy a dress I had seen & liked but too expensive. He bought dress, coat and hat for my birthday. I’m thrilled with dress and hat … felt like a Duchess.”14 A few days later, on 10 December, her seventieth birthday, he sent her two dozen red roses, as he had on every one of her birthdays since he had left home.

Work on Powis Terrace progressed slowly, but it was an excuse for Schlesinger to start shopping again, which kept him involved in David’s life. Before Christmas they went off together to Munich, where Hockney had to sign an edition of his Olympic posters. “We came back through Paris,” wrote Hockney to Ron Kitaj on 2 January. “…  I really like it more and more indeed I think Paris is going to have a great revival. People look so beautiful there. They either look chic, which is nice, or scruffy in a marvellous ‘La Boheme’ way … Of course Peter always loved Paris … Work is progressing slowly on the flat. In Paris we bought a table and fourteen chairs for our dining room, made in 1925 for a Mme de Courcel who had a lot of classical sculpture in her house. Its [sic] quite beautiful …”15

Laura was well enough to come to London at the end of January to see off her daughter-in-law Alwyn, John’s wife, who was on her way back to Australia, where they, following in the footsteps of Philip Hockney, had emigrated in 1968. Hockney booked her and Ken into the Strand Palace Hotel and took them for dinner at one of the most fashionable restaurants in London, Odin’s in Devonshire Place. “Met David’s friend,” wrote Laura, “who cooks all the food himself, & getting our order left us to go and cook it … Ken had steak and fried onions & David a foreign dish!…Brought back souvenir menus which David and Patrick Procktor had drawn. Later our friend the cook said he would toast Alwyn in Champagne.”16

Alwyn got off lightly with just a toast, as “the cook” was the renowned restaurateur Peter Langan, who had taken over and turned round the fortunes of Odin’s after its original owner, James Benson, was killed in a car crash in 1966. Langan was a legendary drunk, and lecherous with it. “He was a womanizer,” said the artist Bruer Tidman, who worked at Odin’s in the late sixties. “He would go round asking the girls to get their tits out—but there wasn’t much he could do most of the time because he was so out of it.”17

Odin’s was run as a restaurant in which the proprietor would have liked to dine himself, and woe betide anyone Langan took a dislike to. “When my old brown bitch, Susie, was recovering from a hysterectomy in 1968,” the art critic Brian Sewell recalled, “he invited her to dinner, wore a jacket and ate with her. She sat on the opposite chair confronted by all the panoply of a place-setting, and ate a dish of diced steak, very slowly, savouring each cube, and gazing about her as though she wished to see and be seen. At a neighbouring table four boisterous Australians objected; their complaints began indirectly, with such remarks as ‘Jesus, now we’ve seen everything,’ and grew to a grumble about not paying the bill in such a filthy, unhygienic restaurant. Peter ignored them for some time … but at last he could bear it no longer and, without rising from his chair or raising his voice (and taking care not to disturb Susie’s poise), he addressed them with, ‘I own this joint. I don’t care a damn about hygiene. I’d rather have this restaurant full of dogs than Australians—as you can see for yourselves, they have better manners.’ ”18

Langan was also a genuine lover of art and artists. A close friend of Patrick Procktor, he encouraged artists to trade art for food, a mutually beneficial arrangement he called “eating it down.” “To find a restaurant close at hand,” wrote Procktor, “which was not only welcoming but extremely good, and, to boot, that bought one’s paintings in exchange for food, was a thrill both for David and for me. David introduced Ron Kitaj … and Peter’s career as the most successful restaurateur of our time began. Odin’s became quite a place for artists and their friends … and some of those ate their way through the price of pictures acquired by Peter.”19 In this way Langan procured the services of Hockney and Procktor to design his menus, and Procktor’s watercolours and Hockney’s drawings and prints were soon among the dozens of works of art, hung like postcards, which adorned the walls. One of the first pictures Hockney traded in this way was The Enchantress with the Baby Rapunzel, an early pull from the Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, made before the set went on sale officially. There are many drawings of Langan himself in the tiny airless kitchen, wearing his stained bum-freezer chef’s jacket, with knife in hand or cradling his favourite large brandy glass filled with Löwenbräu lager, as well as a delicate portrait in coloured crayons of him seated wearing a blazer, nursing a glass of wine.

There was a period in the late sixties and early seventies when Hockney went to Odin’s almost every night with a group of his friends, among whom were usually Schlesinger, Procktor, Kirsten Benson, who was James Benson’s widow, Wayne Sleep, the brilliant young ballet dancer, and his boyfriend, George Lawson, a highly intelligent and very amusing antiquarian bookseller who worked at Bertram Rota Booksellers on Long Acre in Covent Garden.

Hockney met George Lawson through Kasmin, who had taken him into the shop, and they immediately hit it off because his camp, rather wicked sense of humour made him laugh. Likewise, George fell easily into David’s milieu, taking a particular liking to Ossie Clark and Mo McDermott. “I liked Ossie enormously,” Lawson says, “because David had this entourage who just waited to see what he was going to do or say, so if he said, ‘Look, the sky is very green today,’ then everyone would say, ‘Yes, the sky does look a bit green,’ or if he said, ‘I’m going to the cinema,’ then they would all go to the cinema. But Ossie never did. He would do the opposite, and that is what I liked about him.”20 Lawson took to McDermott because he was so funny and quick-witted. “I remember once David and I were running down the stairs at Powis Terrace, and Mo knocked on one of the doors and ran away, and David said, ‘You shouldn’t have done that, Mo, because the lady who lives there is blind,’ and Mo said, ‘Well, she’ll never know we weren’t there.’ This kind of thing used to make David crack up.”21 It was Kasmin who had introduced him toWayne Sleep, who soon moved into Lawson’s flat in Wigmore Place, behind Harley Street. It proved to be the beginning of a long and happy relationship. “We all became inseparable for a while,” Lawson recalls, “and would see each other every day. Because we didn’t have a kitchen, every meal was in a restaurant. We would all go out to dinner every night, usually to Odin’s where we would have the back table. Wayne, David, Peter, Patrick Procktor and me more or less lived there.”22

The morning after their dinner at Odin’s, Ken and Laura went to see Chassay’s renovations at Powis Terrace. “Looked around David’s flat,” Laura recorded on 26 January, “which is going to be very beautiful & hopes to be ready in six weeks, tho now it is chaos.” Celia was there discussing the bathroom tiles, which she was designing, and she took Ken and Laura to her shop to try on some shirts and blouses. “David got some too,” Laura wrote, “and we were most amused when Dad tried on ‘with it’ coats nearly to floor shaped & no pockets!! He did look comical. Poor dad was like the dog with the bone—but tho the cupboard was full, he got none.”23

If there was ever an annus horribilis in David’s life, then it was this year, 1971. He was struggling to finish Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, there was the constant noise of the builders next door, and he had compounded his problems by breaking one of his own golden rules, which was not to undertake portrait commissions. Yet when Sir David Webster, the general administrator of the Royal Opera House, had asked him personally if he would paint his retirement portrait, Hockney initially said he might consider doing a drawing, then ended up agreeing to a painting. Sir David, often referred to as “Daisy” by those in the music world, was a Scot with a background in the retail trade, who since the war had succeeded in turning Covent Garden from an impoverished venue with no permanent company and a rather provincial image into one of the leading opera houses in the world. He approached Hockney because he knew that he loved opera.

“A lot of pressure was put on me by Dickie Buckle and a few other people in the opera world,” David recalls, “and I explained that I didn’t really want to do it. There are problems painting portraits of people you don’t know and I didn’t really want to spend time doing that.”24 He ran into problems even before he started the painting, unable to decide what the setting should be despite endless visits to Webster’s house off Harley Street. “Then they began to natter me,” he wrote, “when will it be ready, he’s retiring on this date, and so on. And in the end I thought, all I can do is paint him in my studio. So that’s the setting; the table and chair and flowers are in my studio.”25

As soon as he was settled in the tubular chair that Hockney had chosen for him to sit in, Webster would fall asleep, making it tricky to capture his personality. No longer the vibrant energetic man he must have been when young, Webster was a sick old man, who, it turned out, was at death’s door. While he was sleeping, Hockney did lots of drawings of him, and when he was awake, he took as many photographs as he could. He just couldn’t get the mood, and his problems were compounded by the fact that the painting had been commissioned by a major institution and had to be completed by a deadline, something he was not used to and which filled him with fear.

Before he could begin, however, Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy had to be finished, and on the day he completed it, 15 February, the first person he called was his mother. “David phoned—he has finished his picture,” she wrote. “Takes his first driving test in England tomorrow—do hope he passes. He is so kind—in spite of depression went to bed with a thankful heart for his thoughtfulness and generosity—we are certainly blessed in our family, even if we ourselves are difficult.”26

Hockney was also facing a much more significant difficulty: after nearly five years together, his relationship with Schlesinger was beginning to founder. “I met Peter when he was eighteen,” he says, “and we had certain things in common. We could travel around museums together, for example, but I realise now that there were a few things we didn’t quite have in common. I don’t think he ever had much of an ear for music and I probably took him to too many operas. Then he always wanted to stay in London, whereas I wanted to be in California. Another thing was humour. He could be quite funny, but only a little bit, whereas I would tend to mock things more.”27

Sexual boredom had also set in, and in order to try and inject a little romance into their life, as well as to get away from the Webster portrait for a while, Hockney took Schlesinger and Birtwell to Morocco for a fortnight. They stayed in Marrakech at La Mamounia, famed for its twenty acres of lush gardens and its decor in a mixture of art deco and Moroccan styles. The hotel’s many associations appealed to David. Churchill and Roosevelt had stayed there during the war when they attended the Casablanca Conference. Josef von Sternberg filmed Morocco there withMarlene Dietrich, while Alfred Hitchcock not only used it in The Man Who Knew Too Much, but got the inspiration there for The Birds, when he opened the door onto his balcony and was assailed by a flock of pigeons.

“The Hotel in Marrakech,” Hockney wrote to Henry Geldzahler, “was rather like the Beverly Hills Hotel only of course more Moroccan … When we arrived we bought some high quality Kief and every evening we sat on our large wooden balcony completely stoned. Each afternoon I did a large coloured drawing of a scene in the hotel or Celia or Peter (with a Palm Tree in the background). And in between I took the usual 300 photographs.”28 Hockney and Schlesinger had a large bedroom with a beautiful balcony and view, and one of the drawings he did was a rear view of Schlesinger standing on the balcony “gazing at a luscious garden and listening to the evening noises of Marrakech.” This drawing, inspired by The Balcony, Macao by the nineteenth-century artist George Chinnery, was later worked up into a painting, Sur la Terrasse, which Hockney began work on when he returned home.

While Schlesinger found it hard to control his mounting irritation that all Hockney wanted to do at the hotel was to arrange him in poses to draw and photograph, Hockney was equally irritated by Schlesinger’s demands that they should indulge in some social life. “There was a terrible row,” Celia recalls, “and David said to Peter, ‘The trouble with you, Peter, is you just want to be in Marrakech, Kensington, and I’ve come away from all that,’ and they had to take a pile of Valium to calm down. Peter was getting excited by the fact that ‘the Gettys were living just over there!’ ”29 Things improved a little when they made a detour to Madrid on their way home to visit the Prado, David’s first trip to Spain. They arrived in a blizzard, and the snow-covered city reminded him of Berlin and Vienna. His agenda had been to look at the Velázquez pictures, but he ended up being much more impressed by the Goyas. “All those rooms full of Goyas,” he wrote to Geldzahler, “they’re fabulous; about six rooms in the Prado, beginning with the early works, when he painted pretty pictures of people dancing in sylvan glades, happy pictures, beautifully painted … and finally those marvellous pictures he did in his old age, almost like Bacons. Marvellous!”30

On his return, Hockney had to face the deadline for his portrait of Sir David Webster. As usual, Powis Terrace was full of people coming and going and for the first time they became a distraction. Hockney told everyone to leave—Schlesinger went off to Paris for a few days—and locked himself in the studio, working on the picture for eighteen hours a day until it was finished. He later admitted to Anthony Bailey that he actually spent longer on the tulips in this picture than he did on Webster. It had been an unhappy experience: he didn’t like the finished work, in spite of the fact that it was considered a great success by both the sitter and those who commissioned it. “I was also terrified then,” he says, “of being asked to do a hell of a lot of portraits … I didn’t regret doing it afterwards, but I certainly didn’t want to do any more, otherwise they’d be turning me into a society portrait painter and I didn’t want that.”31

The Webster portrait was completed at the same time that Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy went on show at the National Portrait Gallery, in an exhibition called Snap which explored the idea of likeness, and it vexed Hockney that the Webster was generally thought to be a better picture. Writing in The Times, Guy Brett found the portrait of the Clarks “unusually bland and lacking in tension,”32 while Marco Livingstone has described the surface of the picture as being “murky and uninviting.”33 Henry Geldzahler’s pertinent comments about it got right to the root of Hockney’s fears. “If David, aged 32, 34 or 36, had decided to devote the rest of his life to painting pictures like this, he would have become a latter-day Pre-Raphaelite—an English painter really of very local interest. He would have been a mystifier, a prestidigitator, somebody who could do the impossible with paint—and yet something would have fallen out of the content. And that something is the element of risk, of doubt.”34

He decided to take a much-needed break from portraiture. He found his new inspiration in a hand-tinted postcard that Kasmin had given him depicting a small island in the Inland Sea in Japan, a country he had a strong desire to visit. Just as Domestic Scene, Los Angeles had been based entirely on preconceived ideas, so in The Island Hockney wanted to see how close to the mark he might be about Japan, before actually going there. “The postcard attracted me for many other reasons: the problem of depicting the sea because of the inlet, the connections with landscape (or seascape) painting and with Monet, and, not least, that it looked like a piece of cake.”35

Scarcely had he started work than he received a call from Jack Hazan, a young cameraman and film-maker, which was to be of immense significance in his life. Ever since filming the paintings in Hockney’s Whitechapel retrospective show, Hazan had been trying to convince Hockney to be the subject of a feature film. “I was immediately wowed by this show,” Hazan recalls, “because of the double portraits. I’d never seen any of his canvases before, and I thought the possibilities were enormous. I got very excited because the subjects were alive, and I could possibly gain access to them, and maybe, I thought straight away, I could film them in the same poses. I could possibly make something dramatic out of it and produce some kind of mystery. The paintings are very compelling. The film was never intended to be a documentary. I wanted to make something cinematic.”36

A few months previously, Hazan had persuaded Hockney to view some earlier films he had made for the BBC, one about an artists’ colony in Camden, and the other about the Liverpudlian artist Keith Grant. He made it quite clear that this was with a view to Hockney possibly participating in a film himself. But though polite and civil about it, Hockney did not like what he had seen. Not quite straight documentaries, Hazan’s films required the participants to act a little, rather than just talk to camera. “David recognised that,” says Hazan, “and the first thing he said to me when he came out was, ‘I’m not going to act, Jack,’ and then I heard nothing from him. So I just kept ringing him and ringing him and he was never encouraging.”37

One day, however, he suddenly said yes. “Jack started nattering me,” Hockney remembers, “and I was always putting him off, and then he came back to me and nattered again, and finally I agreed to do it to get rid of him.”38 Hazan turned up at Powis Terrace the following day with two assistants, a couple of lights and a 16mm Cameflex movie camera, a type much favoured by the French nouvelle vague film-makers because of its portability and unforbidding appearance. “When I arrived there,” he recalls, “he was rebuilding Powis Terrace and there were a lot of Irish builders around. I filmed him painting the Japanese island picture a bit, and because I’m fairly skilled and confident I did it very fast. I think he liked the light I provided as well, which was daylight done by using redheads with blue filter paper. I was excited when I left, and the next day, when we got the rushes, it looked marvellous, and he was very photogenic, with his bleached blond hair and his rugby shirt.”39 For his part, Hockney was only too glad to see the back of Hazan, and had few worries about having agreed to take part. “There were three people with one camera,” he remembers, “and I just kept thinking, ‘Well, this will be slightly out of focus, and it will play one or two nights at the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street with the Polish version of Hamlet, and then it’ll be gone.’ ”40 He could not have been more wrong.

Since the return from Morocco, things had begun to unravel between Hockney and Schlesinger. In Paris in February, Schlesinger had met Fred Hughes, Andy Warhol’s young business manager, a keen Anglophile and stylish dresser who bought his suits and shoes in London. When Hughes came to London with Picasso’s daughter Paloma to see Death in Venice, which hadn’t yet opened in Paris, and invited Schlesinger and Hockney to join them for dinner at the fashionable Chinese restaurant Mr. Chow in Knightsbridge, Schlesinger accepted the invitation. On the night, David didn’t want to go. “He said he was going to stay home and work,” Schlesinger remembers. “He told me to go, saying, ‘I’m not interested in meeting Paloma. If it was Pablo, I’d go.’ ”41

The evening turned out to be more significant than Schlesinger could ever have imagined. He turned up at the restaurant to find Paloma’s guests already there, the Spanish designer Manolo Blahnik, who designed shoes for Zapata, a trendy boutique, and Eric Boman, a strikingly beautiful young Swedish illustrator and fabric designer. Hughes and Paloma had misjudged the length of the film and were an hour late for dinner, giving Schlesinger plenty of time, over a number of Screwdrivers, to get acquainted with the two strangers. Schlesinger was almost instantly infatuated with Boman, and the attraction was mutual. “It was a coup de foudre,” says Boman, “or certainly lust at first sight. We had a huge attraction to each other. It happens, and from then on we saw each other every day.”42

With the Webster portrait completed, the builders about to break through the wall to complete the lateral conversion, creating chaos and dust in the flat, and his relationship with Schlesinger rocky, Hockney decided to take off to California for a couple of weeks “for some adventure.”43 He stayed with Nick Wilder, and hung out with their mutual friend Arthur Lambert, whom he had met in 1968. “When I first went to see Arthur,” Hockney recalls, “Nick Wilder had told me he was a banker, which immediately put me off a bit. When I went to his house, however, and he opened the door and I saw this unbelievably dishy boy standing behind him, I thought, ‘Well, he’s no ordinary banker.’ ”44

Lambert was a 34-year-old financier, who had moved down from Washington to take over a company that ran answering services, much used by Hollywood stars, and the dishy boy was his much younger lover, Larry Stanton, a painting student. “I remember the night David came over,” says Lambert, “because I was wrestling with a very complicated recipe, a French dish with goose and beans called Cassoulet, and making it was practically causing me a nervous breakdown. But David was immediately obviously very attracted to Larry, so things went really well from that point, and our friendship began.”45

In the days before there were exclusively gay bars in LA, Lambert’s house off La Cienega Boulevard, which had a vast living room on the first floor with great views over the city, became a focal point for the gay community. “The police were very aggressive then,” he says, “and were constantly arresting people for touching each other. You couldn’t dance, or anything like that, so we used to have dances at my house and it was always full of the most beautiful young boys.”46 It was not long before word of Lambert’s lifestyle drifted back to his employers in Washington, who immediately fired him, their excuse being that they needed a “family man” to run the company. He kept Hedges Place on, however, and when Hockney arrived at the end of March 1971 he was able to spend blissful hours there drawing and enjoying the company of boys such as Paul Miranda, of whom he did two fine line drawings, one of him stretched out on a sofa, the other, which is signed “for Arthur,” of him seated on the edge of a table.

“David was going off to LA,” Schlesinger recalls, “and having little affairs, which I wasn’t aware of until I saw the drawings he had done of the various boys.”47 These dalliances meant nothing to Hockney, however, who still believed he and Schlesinger had something strong enough to be able to overcome their difficulties. He told the journalist Gordon Burn: “I have a relationship with this boy that’s as complete as two people could have.”48 Even when Schlesinger admitted to carrying on an affair, which Hockney must have suspected, since Boman was coming round to Powis Terrace every day, he convinced himself that it was just a fling that would soon be over. “At first I was a bit hurt,” Hockney wrote, “and then I thought, well there’s nothing I can do about it really. After all, I’d just been to California to release myself, as it were. And I thought it’s probably temporary …”49 He retreated into work, specifically on Sur la Terrasse, a picture tinged with a curious melancholy as the remote figure stares into the middle distance.

Resisting the demands of others was becoming more and more of a problem as Hockney’s fame increased. Nikos Stangos, for example, with whom he had worked on the Cavafy project, was trying to revive Sir Kenneth Clark’s Penguin Modern Painters series, which had run from 1944 to 1959, and aimed to bring the work of modern artists to a wider public outside the art galleries. “I get nattered to death here,” Hockney wrote to Henry Geldzahler in June, “and just wish at times that only a few people liked my work. Still it’s made me get a bit tougher. I actually refuse to do things that people ask now, and just sit and paint. If I allowed everybody with some scheme or other to take up my time, I would never get anything done at all. I’m sure Nikos will be a little disappointed but the real truth about those little books is that they are not that interesting. When Penguin originally did there [sic] modern painter series … nothing like the books existed. Now my catalogue from the Whitechapel is really better and more interesting … than the Penguin book format will be, so I don’t care about it, and I suspect nobody else does other than Nikos …”50

By the middle of June, Schlesinger was spending more and more time alone in his studio and it was becoming increasingly clear to Hockney that the affair with Boman was serious. Jack Hazan noticed the tension between them when he went to film in Powis Terrace for a second time—no mean achievement, given Hockney’s new tougher stance on his time. “The fact that I’d had my foot in the door,” Hazan says, “did not allow any further entrance. Every time I actually gained access to his studio or to him, I had to negotiate specially, which was very wearing on my nerves.” Hazan turned up at the studio and after a very short time, Hockney suddenly said, “Let’s get Peter.” “I had no idea who Peter was. Anyway, Peter came, and arrived looking very angry, and he looked at me in a very hostile way. He sat down on this stool and David painted him. You could have cut the atmosphere between the two of them with a knife, as Peter plainly did not want to be there, and I realised then that David had got him there on the pretext of drawing him just to have him in front of him. There was huge tension and David was furiously painting and he knew he had to do it rapidly because Peter’s patience was wearing thin.”51

When Hazan showed the rushes to his business partner, David Mingay, an assistant editor at the BBC, he saw at once that the key to the film lay in the story of the break-up between Hockney and Schlesinger. Unbeknown to Hockney, that is the road they decided to go down. Because they had no script and no agreement with Hockney, it was a question of making it up as they went along, shooting any footage they could get which might possibly be relevant: Ossie Clark’s fashion show at the Royal Court Theatre, a glamorous event at which Twiggy, Amanda Lear and Alice Ormsby-Gore were among the models who sashayed down the catwalk in Manolo Blahnik’s first collection of shoes, Hockney and Celia Birtwell in the front row, with Schlesinger and Boman turning up wearing identical sailor suits; Kasmin in his gallery, pretending to ring Hockney to complain that he had forgotten to turn up to a meeting; and endless shots of Mo McDermott in Powis Terrace. “The story was slowly evolving,” says Hazan. “We had scores of scenes all marked out on the glass partition in the editing room, small scenes, which we’d shot. There were no computers then and we didn’t know where the scenes fitted, so we would just scrub one out and put it higher or lower on the glass partition, or wherever it seemed to fit.”52

Work on Powis Terrace was completed in the early summer, and the small flat was transformed into a large, light and airy space with lots of room to breathe. There was a library panelled with cedarwood, a state-of-the-art bathroom featuring a circular shower lined with Celia Birtwell’s dark blue tiles, and, at the end of the main corridor, an open-plan dining room in which stood the table and fourteen chairs bought in Paris. The truth was, of course, that this beautiful place had been created with Schlesinger in mind, and now that it was finished, he was leaving. There was a sadness and a sterility to it, which was picked up on by the artist and film-maker Derek Jarman, who dined there one night. “The Art Deco blight has taken over David’s home. Lemonade is served in precious Lalique glasses. There’s a dining-room table that would seat the boardroom of the Chase Manhattan bank and David has the food brought in from Mr. Chow’s. The flat now parodies his painting. There are huge bunches of tulips in yet more Lalique vases dotted around like wreaths. The place is antiseptic, a waiting room for the good life … When I first came to Powis Terrace you could lounge around, but now the decoration dwarfs and depresses … David, who seems the same on the surface, has become a tortoise within a decorator’s shell.”53 Hockney felt his life unravelling and made desperate attempts to pull things together, taking Schlesinger off on a trip to Le Nid de Duc, for example, though this was hardly the best atmosphere in which to give him attention. When Hockney was lonely and miserable, there was always Bradford to escape to, and thinking about his parents took his mind off himself. “Yesterday I had a delightful day with my parents in the English lakes,” he wrote to Henry Geldzahler, “visiting Wordsworth’s cottage and house by the lake at Grasmere. I’d forgotten how beautiful it really is. The drive from Bradford is through bleak moorland scenery, and quite spectacular. Although it’s June the weather was like November. It’s all very Gothic up there—and I love Gothic places. We must go when you next come to England—it’s only five hours drive and in my new car with steario (forgive my atrocious spelling) it should be very pleasant.”54

Everything came to a head in the high summer. “David went to LOT in France for a month,” wrote Laura on 28 July, “with his friends and John Kasmin.”55 The holiday was to be spent with the Kasmins at Carennac, and the group consisted of some of his inner circle—Clark and Birtwell, who was six months pregnant and working hard to make her fractured marriage work, Mo McDermott and Maurice Payne—together with George Lawson and Wayne Sleep. Hockney had pleaded with Schlesinger to come, and to begin with everything was calm. The weather was warm and sunny, the food was delicious, and everyone lazed around reading, swimming in the river and sunbathing and falling under Carennac’s magical spell. Hockney worked, having arranged before he left London for Payne to bring down a carload of etching plates, and among the drawings he completed was a particularly charming one of Birtwell sitting in a green garden chair, exuding feminine beauty and grace. A postcard he sent to Ron Kitaj on 18 August—“The weather is beautiful, I am working slowly and Peter is reading Proust”—makes everything sound idyllic, but the truth by then was somewhat different. “In Carennac,” he later wrote, “Peter and I hadn’t been getting on well at all, and I was getting very miserable about it. We’d had one very pleasant day when we drove down the Gorge de Tarn …”56

This scenario is supported by George Lawson’s version of events. “Peter was already going off on his own,” he recalls, “…  on long bicycle rides in the countryside and we wouldn’t see him throughout the whole day. He was just wandering around on his own. He just didn’t want to be with David.”57 Not even a trip to Barcelona to visit the Museum of Modern Art and the Picasso Museum could calm things down. Eventually Schlesinger said he would like to go to Cadaqués, a town on the coast of Catalonia, famous for its associations with artists like Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. Richard Hamilton had a summer home there, and through him Mark Lancaster had rented an apartment from “Teeny” Duchamp, Marcel’s widow, and invited Schlesinger and Hockney to stay.

Unfortunately Lancaster was not up to speed on what was going on between them, and had also invited Eric Boman. “Mark had invited me and David to visit him in Cadaqués,” Schlesinger recalls. “David said no, but I said I was going anyway, because I wanted to meet Eric there. When I said this, he said he would drive me there.”58

Arriving in Cadaqués to find Boman in residence did little for Hockney’s state of mind. Nor did the fact that it was the height of the summer season and the town was crawling with tourists, including a large group of English gilded youth who were guests of the brewing heir Jonathan Guinness and his wife Sue who had a house up in the hills. The Guinnesses had invited Lancaster to bring his party to a picnic they were holding on top of a rock down the coast, to which they would all be travelling by boat. When Hockney heard about this, he went into a sulk. “I’m not going,” he said. “It’s too social and there are too many Hoorays.”59 Lancaster, Schlesinger and Boman paid no attention and went down to the harbour, followed by an increasingly agitated Hockney.

“There was a screaming match at the dock,” Boman remembers, “when everyone was on the boat, and it was leaving for the lunch. Peter was on it and David was standing on the dock in tears. He was making an ultimatum, which was, ‘If you go on this picnic, you can’t come back.’ ” At that point, Schlesinger says, “Everyone was getting involved. Richard Hamilton was shouting and David was crying. He said, ‘I’m leaving. Come with me.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m staying here,’ and he shouted ‘Fuck off’ and left.”60

Completely distraught, Hockney jumped into his car with the intention of driving back to Carennac alone, but got no further than the medieval town of Perpignan, just north of the Spanish border, where he decided to stay the night in the Grand Hotel. As much to his surprise as theirs, he encountered George Lawson and Wayne Sleep there, en route from Barcelona where they had been staying with the Spanish sculptor Xavier Corberó. “David was in a state and on his own,” Lawson remembers, “so we had to go and sit by his bed. Then as we were sitting there was an earthquake, and the chandelier began to shake, and the bell of the clock tower crashed to the ground. The next morning we said to him, ‘What a night! What a night!’ and he said, ‘What do you mean? I’m very upset.’ And we said, ‘David, there was an earthquake. The whole hotel was shaking,’ and he just said, ‘Oh, I’m very upset with Peter.’ He was having an internal earthquake, which had quite overwhelmed him.”61

Arriving back at Carennac, Hockney burst into floods of tears at the sight of Clark and McDermott, totally disconsolate at what he had done. To top it all he got an unexpected and unwelcome surprise. In the excitement of the last few months he had completely forgotten about Jack Hazan, who was still anxiously pursuing him and, hearing that Hockney was going to be staying with Kasmin, had decided to drive down there on the off chance of getting some more film in the can. After arriving with his sound recordist to find no sign of David, he had decided to stick around anyway and film whatever was going on. “We concocted a scene together,” Jack recalls, “with Mo and Ossie playing around in the chateau. I was filming that, when who should arrive but David, and he came in and saw me. I turned the motor off and he looked at me and said, ‘Oh my God!’ and was really upset and left. I didn’t speak to him until that evening when we were having dinner and it was made quite clear to me that I couldn’t do any more and I had to leave the next day.”62

Remorse now set in and Hockney began to regret his behaviour towards Schlesinger. “I thought, I’ve been really cruel to Peter, what a rotten thing I’ve done. So I said I must phone up and apologise, and say I didn’t mean to be bitchy if I was bitchy.”63 Since reaching him by telephone was complicated, and ultimately involved leaving messages, he decided to drive back to Cadaqués, speak to Schlesinger in person and then leave, hopefully on less of a sour note. As it happened, Clark was planning to drive to Nice the following day to stay with Mick Jagger at the Villa Nellcôte, where the Stones were recording their album Exile on Main Street, so he said he would take Hockney there. Maurice Payne and Mo McDermott decided to go along too. “I drove down there with Mo,” Payne remembers, “and David drove with Ossie in his huge Bentley. When you’re losing somebody you pull out all the stops and I think David was absolutely distraught.”64

When Hockney reached Mark Lancaster’s, however, he was the last person Schlesinger wanted to see. “Peter said, ‘I don’t want you to stay here, get out of this town’…I said, ‘I’ve just driven back, I’m not going to leave now; I’m going to stay a day, I’m going to rest’…Richard Hamilton was quite amused by it all. He said, ‘The border police must know you very well, David.’ ”65 Hamilton offered to put them up and Hockney spent the time making a marvellous etching of him sitting in a chair holding a cheroot in his right hand. Not even the most profoundly emotional state could prevent him working. When he had finished, he returned to London, feeling a little better in the belief that he had made it up a bit with Peter. But it was the beginning of the end.

After all the drama, Schlesinger and Boman had no desire to stay any longer in Cadaqués, so Clark offered to take them with him to Mick Jagger’s, an idea they jumped at. Schlesinger suggested that they should stop the night en route with Tony Richardson at Le Nid de Duc, but when they arrived there unannounced, Richardson, out of loyalty to Hockney, made it quite clear they were not welcome. So they drove straight on to the Villa Nellcôte, arriving in the early hours of the morning to find everyone asleep, and making themselves unpopular by eating an entire Paris-Brest pastry that had been intended for the next day’s lunch. The two boys crept into a maids’ room at the top of the house, and later that day, Clark drove them to the station where they boarded a train for Paris. It was standing room the whole way.

“The end came,” Schlesinger says, “when I went to Greece with my parents right after all this, like a week later. We were in Athens first and then we went to stay with Mary North on Lindos. In Athens I got really mad at my father, and called him David. I never went back to David after that. When I got back to London, I told him that I was moving out.”66

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