David Hockney, the godfather of British art, is about to start work in a new medium that he has been famously dismissive of in the past. Tourism.
Bridlington-based Hockney is in the process of creating an official tourist trail to a number of sites across his home county of Yorkshire, with a particular focus on those places he has painted in his beloved Yorkshire Wolds as part of his Royal Academy exhibition which opens in January.
It represents a change of heart by Hockney who has been reluctant to promote Yorkshire in the past as he famously does not like crowds of people. This is one of the reasons he settled in Los Angeles, because of the lack of celebrity chasing that he experienced in Britain and then Paris in the 1970s.
Even at the press conference to launch next year’s Royal Academy exhibition he expressed concern that his paintings might result in an influx of people to the Wolds altering its atmosphere and appeal, especially to him.
However, he is a pragmatist too and he recognises that the David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture exhibition will put the Yorkshire Wolds on the global map for artists as well as tourists as the bulk of the landscape and film works being exhibited were done in this quiet corner of East Yorkshire.
It is already being talked about as Hockney Country in the art world, just as Suffolk is recognised as Constable Country.
So Britain’s greatest living artist has agreed to work with the county’s tourist board, Welcome to Yorkshire, to create an official tourist trail, rather than allow unofficial versions or websites to incorrectly identify the sites at which he has worked.
It is not yet known whether he will actively promote the trail himself or just lend his name and copyright to it.
Sites likely to be featured would include the village of Warter where he painted Bigger Trees (which were subsequently chopped down) and Bigger Trees Near Warter (which still exist). Although it is not part of the Royal Academy exhibition it remains one of his most famous works from the Wolds, a giant painting made up of 50 canvases measuring 40 feet in width.
Other areas which are likely to be included would be Garrowby Hill and Sledmere, both of which are re-imagined workings of the landscapes he knows so well, rather than painted en plein air like those in Warter.
Thixendale, where he has painted three trees through the seasons might also be included as well as Woldgate Woods, outside the village of Kilham, both of which feature in the new Royal Academy exhibition.
However, Bridlington, where he now spends most of his time rather than in Los Angeles, might not be featured, just in case the trail creates Hockney Hunters intent on finding the ultimate spot on the Hockney Trail, his studio.