David Hockney "May Blossom on the Roman Road"

David Hockney on A Cold Day

It was a cold day in Manhattan and on seeing the first Twiggy green-orange hues of David Hockney paintings from inside the doors of Pace Wildenstein I wanted to throw off my coat run up to them and start leaping.

One suspects that after years in California no matter how bounteous, the Yorkshire landscapes of the artists childhood wavered in the watery light like the dream sequence in Ken Russells Lair of the White Worm. (I mean that as a compliment.) Like giant Cheetos come-hithering with ambidextrous digits, the flora of spring in Yorkshire look very dick-like, splendiferously bulbous indeed.

David Hockney "Felled Totem I" oil on canvas. 60" X 72"

David Hockney "Felled Totem I" oil on canvas. 60" X 72". Photo credit: Jonathan Wilkinson

Hockneys smaller compositions often rely on the British garden path for an axial and are square. Flowering bushes bound the path. The path is sometimes stung with Seuss-like shadow. The bushes, which veer into the frame and out of it, seemingly closer for the lurid emerald of the grass and foliage, proliferate like mad. Faster, higher! That Hockey reads the flowers sexually should not, come on, be surprising. They are sexual. But wow the delight of what happens when they sway below the cross-hatch pink and blue of a compulsive Van Gogh sky. Or the felled timber reimagined as Gauguin on the islands. Trees in Hockneys Yorkshire make you think bundle, mass, orĀ  stealth, balletic delicacy.

Despite the workaday references (by other critics) to John Constable and mirrors outdoors, Hockney on the subject of optics has been quoted to the effect that landscapes are more glorious than photography can say. While (take a good look to the left) it might seem hard to believe he really did paint these in plein air, from the sizes of the canvases, he told the New York Times this fall that people leave him alone in Yorkshire. “You can set up big canvases by the side of the road,” he said. “Nobody will interfere.”
I dared ask the price breaking the golden rule ($750k to $8m.) And if you need a refresher on the Lair dream sequence paste this into your browser.

Top photo: David Hockney, “May Blossom on the Roman Road” oil on 8 canvases. 72 X 192″ (6 x 16)
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