Reciprocal Exchange

“It is always fascinating to see someone as remote as oneself working in the same field. I was intrigued to see him admiring things that I like from a completely different point of view. We could not be farther apart as human beings and yet I find myself completely at ease with him and stimulated by his enthusiasm. For he has this golden quality of being able to enjoy life”.

“He is never blasé, never takes anything for granted. Life is a delightful wonderland for him; much of the time he is wreathed in smiles. He laughs aloud at television and radio. He is the best possible audience, though by no means simple. He is sophisticated in that he has complete purity. There is nothing pretentious about him; he never says anything he does not mean. In the world of art intrigue he is a complete natural”.

Cecil Beaton

 
 

David Hockney photographed by Cecil Beaton, March 1965

 
 

Portraits of David Hockney by Cecil Beaton, 1969

 
 

David Hockney at Reddish House, Cecil Beaton, 1970

 
 

In 1969, David Hockney was asked by Vogue to do a drawing of Cecil Beaton, David went to stay with Cecil for three days at Reddish

 
 

“To begin with I was utterly appalled, having remained in some romantic but extremely uncomfortable pose for a great deal too long, when I saw an outline in Indian ink of a bloated, squat, beefy businessman. He laughed. No it wasn’t very good, and he embarked upon another which turned out to be just as bad”

“About eight horrors were perpetrated while the days advanced until, finally, something rather good emerged”.

Cecil Beaton

 
 

Portraits of Cecil Beaton by David Hockney

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Complementing Each Other

David Hockney and Cecil Beaton at Reddish House. Photo by Peter Schlesinger

 
 

“I met David Hockney in 1966, at a University of California summer school where he was my drawing professor. I was 18 and he was a decade my senior. We fell in love and moved to London when I was 20. Before we left California, my father, who was into photography, gave me my first camera.

In this shot, taken in 1970, Cecil Beaton was having a break after taking pictures of David and me in the conservatory of his house in Wiltshire. He and David were telling jokes and bantering as I took their photo. David had become friends with Cecil when Cecil bought one of his very early paintings, but I got to know him as well. He was gossipy, bitchy and very witty – fun to be around but also a huge snob. As a little boy from California, I didn’t get a lot of his attention: as far as Cecil was concerned, if you were working class, you had to be famous.

We went to stay at Cecil’s quite regularly. People would come for dinner, or we would just read and walk in the garden. Cecil and I never discussed photography, but he did let me look through his albums, which dated back to the 1930s. He didn’t like being interrogated about them though; if I asked him about Greta Garbo [with whom he is said to have had an affair], he went completely silent.

There were a lot of parties back in those days. We were always having a good time. We used to dress up as dandies. Now, people talk of the huge significance of that era, but at the time it’s just your life. You don’t think of it in historical terms. Anyway, we thought the 1930s were much more glamorous; we loved old movies and art deco. Cecil’s generation, meanwhile, preferred the Edwardian period, so he dressed that way.

I like the way their poses contrast – they’re doing different things yet they somehow complement each other. It was accidental: I just happened to click at that millisecond and catch a fleeting rather joyous moment. Looking back today, I feel lucky to have known such wonderful people.”

Peter Schlesinger

At The Noisy End of The Café

Portrait of Alberto Giacometti by Robert Doisneau

 
 

AN OLD MAN

“At the noisy end of the café, head bent
over the table, an old man sits alone
a newspaper in front of him.

…And in the miserable banality of old age

he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.

He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.
Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
So brief an interval, so very brief.

And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,
how he always believed—what madness—
that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”

He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
now mocks his senseless caution.

But so much thinking, so much remembering
makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
his head resting on the café table.”

Constantine P. Cavafy