Subscribe

(Credit: Far Out / Alamy / Lluís Ribes Mateu / Gandalf's Gallery)

Travel

Travel around Yorkshire following the natural beauty of David Hockney's paintings

David Hockney is one of the most widely lauded and influential modern visual artists. An essential contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, his work helped to precede the postmodern art movement, and unsurprisingly, they covered every aspect of the human condition.

In 1961, Hockney burst onto the scene via the Royal Society for British Artists exhibition, Young Contemporaries, which also showcased the likes of Peter Blake, Pauline Boty and others, helping to put the burgeoning pop art movement on the map.

The interesting thing about Hockney, and perhaps why he is career has continued even into old age, is the way that his style and influences are varied. Not solely a pop art progenitor, his work also contains flecks of diverse aspects of artistic interpretation. Expressionism, printmaking, photo collages, cubism, Plein air landscapes and even iPad drawings make up his vast portfolio. In a sense, his work can be taken as a compendium of modern art. If we were to attribute musical terms to Hockney’s work, you could label it ‘fusion’.

His life and work is captivating and comprised of many distinct chapters. Whether that be his Bradford upbringing alongside many of the other future pop art figures such as Pauline Boty and Derek Boshier, his time at the Royal College of Art, hanging out with R. B. Kitaj, Hockney’s life reads like a work of art in of itself.

Another significant point to mention is that Hockney possesses synaesthetic associations between sound, colour and shape. Understandably, this bleeds into his work, giving his pieces a more authentic feel than many of his contemporaries. No matter what medium he uses, his works are vivid and emotionally stirring, and we can all find something within them.

One of the standouts from his career is undoubtedly his Plein air landscapes. During the 1990s, Hockney found himself returning to Yorkshire, where he would stay with his terminally ill friend, Jonathan Silver. It was Silver who encouraged him to capture the local surroundings, and it was the results of this encouragement that confirmed Hockney as a true genius. A master of the visual arts, these became some of his most celebrated efforts. He would settle in Yorkshire and produce some of his most visually striking and poetic works. 

In 2008, he donated his largest ever work, Bigger Trees Near Warter, which measures 15 x 40 ft, to the Tate in London. He said: “I thought if I’m going to give something to the Tate I want to give them something really good. It’s going to be here for a while. I don’t want to give things I’m not too proud of… I thought this was a good painting because it’s of England… it seems like a good thing to do.”

His work in Yorkshire is where we get our story today. Painting some of the most charming and expressive landscapes ever released to the public, they serve as Hockney’s personal tour around ‘God’s Own Country’, presenting a portal into his life and confirming that you can take the boy out of Yorkshire, but you can’t take Yorkshire out of the boy. This is something that Hockney himself has confirmed at different points across his career.

Some are even painted from his childhood memories, instilling them with a dreamlike, sensual feel, where he manages to augment the natural beauty of the land he saw before his easel. The synaesthesia really comes to the fore on these works, and whilst walking or driving around Hockney’s native county, you see the colours of his brush come to life before your very eyes.

Join us as we outline a hazy jaunt around Yorkshire, courtesy of the master, David Hockney. 

A Yorkshire travel guide following David Hockney’s paintings:

Looking Towards Huggate – Huggate

One of the highlights from Hockney’s vast collection Midsummer: East YorkshireLooking Towards Huggate is a marvellous singular watercolour piece that makes up one part of the 36 piece group. The picture perfectly captures the summer haze of East Yorkshire and gives you a Hockneyesque visual interpretation of the grand vista of the hilly, natural area known as The Wolds. 

Huggate is the highest village area on The Wolds, and the views are unparalleled. A hotspot for hikers, there’s a tranquil beauty to the village that has largely been untouched by the modern world. Looking down at the village from the hills above is more akin to a scene that Thomas Hardy would’ve drawn up than a piece of modern art.

Hockney spent his boyhood summers working on a farm in Huggate, and Hockney’s friend, David Benson, said it has had a “hold on his imagination throughout most of his life”. It is believed that Hockney also viewed its landscape as if its elements were actually animated. 

Benson said: “I remember him describing trees around a farm near Huggate looking as if they had gathered to protect it, or like someone enclosing it in their arms. In his painting, he shows how the hills and hollows enfold the warm red-brick-and-pantile villages, giving the ones off the main roads a snug, secure atmosphere.”

(Credit: David Hockney / Artsy)

Going Up Garrowby Hill – Garrowby

Garrowby Hill is both a majestic and oppressive sight in one. In summer, from its summit, you get the best view of Yorkshire that you’re likely to get east of York. In winter though, the sheer size protrudes from a very bleak scene that can only be described as barren, with the flora brown and covered in snow – a foreboding image in comparison to its summer form.

Due to the beauty of the painting, which captures the area and hill at its finest, in the middle of a warm summer day, it has become a pilgrimage spot for hikers and artists alike. The highest point of The Wolds, you can see right down into the flat Vale of York, across into West Yorkshire.

Near the hamlet of Garrowby, there is the bustling market town of Pocklington to the south, with a celebrated arts centre that is definitely worth a visit. There are also numerous restaurants and boutiques as well.

You will be surprised at just how accurate Hockney’s painting is, made even more stunning by the fact many academics believe it to have been painted solely out of memory. It forms a part of the hiking route between Bridlington and York which is called ‘The Hockney Trail’.

(Credit: David Hockney / Artsy)

The Road to York Through Sledmere – Sledmere

One of the first pieces Hockney created after returning back to Yorkshire in 1997, The Road to York Through Sledmere is one of the most visually striking he ever conceived. Oil on canvas painting, the work shows the road from Bridlington, where Hockney was living at the time, to the ancient city of York.

A natural marvel, featuring many stark and varied vistas, the road to York from Bridlington is picturesque, any time of year. In the painting, Hockney includes many of the village’s most prominent landmarks, including the Sykes well memorial and the Eleanor Cross replica.

A gorgeous reimagining of the village, Hockney does what he does best, bringing it to life, via his vivid imagination. The most significant part of the painting is how realistic it is.

This comes in the sense of perspective. He varies the size of the different features of the village, that the smaller the image the further away it appears. On the other hand, as something gets further away, there is less detail than a feature that is closer. Simple but genius.

The village’s Georgian country house, Sledmere House, is worth a visit while in the area, a structure that was designed by none other than Capability Brown. It has been in the Sykes family since 1751. Sledmere has York to the west and the historic seaside town of Scarborough to the northeast. 

(Credit: David Hockney / Artsy)

Kilham July 2004 – Kilham

Taken from the Midsummer: East Yorkshire collection, this watercolour on paper, is another striking piece of work by Hockney. It captures the languid, tranquil beauty of The Wolds, and just like his depiction of Sledmere, it is spot on.

Not much is known about this particular painting aside from the overall collection it comes from. Kilham itself is a beautiful village nestled in the bosom of The Wolds, and is a favourite rest point for cyclists and hikers, looking to refuel and recharge.

If on a walk, cycle or even in the car, The Old Star pub is a must. Whether it be for a pint of spectacular local ale or a plate of hearty, locally sourced food, Kilham is about as Yorkshire as you could get. The beauty is that you can be looking out of the window eating your food, whilst taking in the beauty of Hockney’s painting. It’s easy to note the subtle changes that have happened to the street since 2004.

(Credit: David Hockney / Artsy)

The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate – Bridlington

An incredibly colourful painting, 2011’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, is made up of 32 separate canvasses of oil paintings. Here, he channels his inner Van Gogh, showing again that as a visual artist, his dexterity is unmatched.

Woldgate is a narrow road that follows an old Roman road that runs from Bessingby Hill on the outskirts of the seaside town of Bridlington to Kilham, seven miles away. Hockney recorded what he saw using his modern weapon of choice, his iPad. 

Woldgate gives you a panoramic view that is one of the best you’ll have ever seen. You can see across the Holderness Plain towards the North Sea and Hull, and can even see as far as Hornsea, Beverley and Humber Bridge. To the north, over the green, rolling fields of The Wolds, you look in the direction of Scarborough, which possesses some of the best waves for surfing in the whole country. 

If you want to capture the bleak, dying dream of a British seaside town, look no further than Hornsea. A juxtaposition caught between natural beauty and the need for investment, it captures the essence of modernity perfectly. There’s amusements, fish and chips and even a pebbly beach.

Beverley is also worth a visit and is the area’s most affluent town by far. A market town with a striking minister and plenty to do, it’s akin to Winchester of the north. Additionally, once the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Humber Bridge, is an architectural feat that is also definitely worth a trip if in the area. 

Furthermore, Woldgate has plenty of flora to be on the lookout for. In spring, there’s elderflower, hawthorn and wild garlic to feast your eyes upon, and maybe even pick some for the herb garden at home.

(Credit: David Hockney / Artsy)