The stained-glass window was commissioned to celebrate the Queen’s reign and has been installed in the north transept, above the statues of former prime ministers including Peel, Gladstone and Disraeli.
Hockney, visiting London from his home in Los Angeles, beamed with pleasure as the window was revealed for the first time on Wednesday. “I know this is a historic place and I know it’s going to last,” he said. The artist chose hawthorn blossom because it is celebratory.
The dean of Westminster said the Queen would appreciate the window. “I didn’t want anything figurative or heraldic, that would have been crass, I think,” John Hall said.
“So to have a country scene for a woman who absolutely loves the country, you get those images of the Queen driving her Land Rover in her mac up in Scotland … it is an ideal celebration. This is not a commemoration, it is a celebration.”
The Queen had seen a sketch of the window but Hall said gauging her enthusiasm had been tricky. “The Queen very often doesn’t given you a very strong reaction,” he said.
It was a much better window than some of the others in the abbey, Hall said, adding that the one next to it, depicting the miracles of Jesus, was too intense. “You can’t really read it. It certainly doesn’t speak to me. [The Hockney window] has an amazing brightness and clarity, it is a simple, utterly readable, direct scene.”
Nor were the Victorian statues that the window overlooks entirely to his liking, but he conceded they were all part of a contrasting fabric that had evolved over hundreds of years. “It is wonderful to have something which is utterly contemporary from one of the greatest artists of the Queen’s reign,” Hall said.
He recalled asking Hockney to create the window and being told the artist could not do anything for six months. “Then he sent me a sketch the next day, which I think is an indication he was keen.”
The window is in a similar vein to his paintings of the Yorkshire Wolds, which he made when he moved to Bridlington for about eight years, before returning to Los Angeles in 2013.
Hockney, 81, said the iPad was a natural thing to use because it was backlit, like a window. His creation measures 8.5 metres high and 3.5 metres wide and was created by a team of 10 craftspeople at Barley stained-glass studio in York.
Helen Whittaker, the studio’s creative director, said it had been a relatively straightforward project. “David was quite clear as to what he wanted to portray. In technique, he has kept to coloured glass and lead, which is very much the essence of Matisse’s window at Saint-Paul de Vence. “It has been a dream to work on and he is a super chap to work with.”
The Queen’s Window replaces what was mostly blank 19th-century glass. The last stained-glass creation to be installed in the abbey was in June 2013: two windows for the Lady Chapel designed by Hughie O’Donoghue.