Beyond the Canvas
Spring in art part 1: David Hockney
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
David Hockney is the celebrated doyen of British 60s pop art. The reason I chose this painting to kick off a short series of posts on Spring in art is because I liked the candor of what he said about it: "In this painting I wanted the sensation of very early spring, when the first leaves come out. They begin at the very bottom of the trees, and you don't see very much of the branches. They seemed to float. I loved that idea and that's what this painting is about. This was my subject: when the spring was beginning, not quite full, otherwise there'd be too many leaves.'
It's clear that Hockney knows about trees and that he's a keen observer of the workings of the natural world. His anticipation for the arrival of springtime is palpable as he conveys his fascination with the changing of the seasons by capturing those first signs that tell us that winter is over. In the artist's own words: 'that moment when nature has an erection'. Well, that's rather vividly put. Those floating leaves, there is a sense of lightness about them, as if they are caught dancing mid-air. I find that beautifully rendered.
Of course there is nothing realistic about Hockney's highly stylised depiction of this wood in his native Yorkshire. He uses his iconically vibrant fauvist palette of reds, purples and greens with the odd speck of yellow to create an almost magical and immersive environment. Though Hockney and Van Gogh have precious little in common, and may no one ever suggest otherwise, they certainly do share a love of landscapes, which they both painted time and time again.
David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, 2011 (twenty eleven). Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle. Photo credit: The David Hockney Foundation
Vincent van Gogh, Undergrowth with Two Figures, 1890. Photo credit: Cincinnati Art Museum
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