David Hockney is considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century. In 2003, in a series of dazzlingly fresh watercolours of the rolling landscape known as the Wolds, Hockney embarked on one of the most ambitious and extraordinary projects of his career. He set about memorializing this little-known, intimate and gently beautiful part of the world. ‘We took some photographs, but they are all flat to me, and I am painting spatial feelings. With those trees … I also realized, especially when I painted it, that in another time frame they could be seen as three explosions. If time was not a factor, that’s what they would be. And that’s what they are as well, in a way.” His vibrant landscapes twist and turn with ever expanding scale, reminiscent of the American West. Despite this they are remain instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Yorkshire. The many paintings he has made in the vicinity of Bridlington since 2005 are among the most captivating and impressive of his long and distinguished career.
In two extended and deeply revealing conversations with art historian Marco Livingstone conducted in the middle of this great project, Hockney speaks with great clarity and candour of the complex personal and artistic motivations that have drawn him back to his roots in Yorkshire and led to one of the crowning achievements of his life in art. These interviews nestle among sumptuously reproduced, full-page spreads of Hockney’s Yorkshire paintings.
Born in Bradford in 1937, David Hockney spent the first 18 years of his life in Yorkshire before moving to London. In 1964 he relocated to Los Angeles, which he chronicled in hedonistic images that became synonymous with his name and ensured the worldwide popularity of his art. Hockney avoided England as a subject until the age of 60, finding inspiration in sunnier climes and more exotic and brightly hued scenery. It was not until 1997 that he returned to celebrate his childhood landscapes of east Yorkshire in paint, to console a dying friend. The passing two years later of the artist’s mother, who had relocated to the seaside town of Bridlington, soon acted as a further incentive to return to an area imbued with affectionate memories.
Marco Livingstone has written extensively on David Hockney since publishing his acclaimed first monograph in 1981. He has curated several Hockney museum retrospectives and the major exhibition of Hockney landscapes opening at the Royal Academy in 2012, and written on Hockney’s landscapes for the catalogues of David Hockney Espace/Paysage (Centre Pompidou, 1999) and David Hockney: Just Nature (Kunthalle Würth, 2009). His book Hockney’s Portraits and People was awarded the 2004 Sir Bannister Fletcher Award for best book on the arts.