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Hockney/Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature

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A collection of two extraordinary artists’ landscape paintings, with new insight into Vincent van Gogh’s influence on David Hockney. Hockney ― Van The Joy of Nature presents unique insights into the influences of two world-renowned artists. Nature has been a substantial theme for both David Hockney and Vincent van Gogh, one that draws their work together―Hockney’s Yorkshire landscapes are especially reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows and The Harvest ―and now, for the first time, art lovers can study their pieces side by side. Presenting paintings, iPad drawings, and sketchbook reproductions, and including work both old and new, this book examines the ways in which both artists use formal elements to create their particular view of the world. An exclusive interview with Hockney and an essay by writer and art critic Hans den Hartog Jager provide a rich analysis of Van Gogh’s influence on Hockney. Illustrated in color throughout

176 pages, Paperback

Published May 7, 2019

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Hans den Hartog Jager

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Ilse.
458 reviews2,963 followers
August 24, 2019
’I saw his drawings and was amazed by his graphic touch. Everything is put in there, every bit of grass, every different texture. And through his colour he created space’.
(David Hockney on Vincent Van Gogh)

According to Vincent van Gogh, the Japanese artist was ‘a man, undoubtedly wise and a philosopher and intelligent . . . he studies a single blade of grass. But this blade of grass leads him to draw all the plants – then the seasons, the broad features of landscapes, finally animals, and then the human figure’.

However strange the ways that might bring me to read a book, more often than not it is simply a book that guides me to another book and every now and then well-chosen, crafty covers of books-steer me into the visual arts as well (Vilhelm Hammershøi’ work was such a discovery; the cover of Vercors's De stilte der zee which I read some years ago, powerfully pointed me back to another dear artist, Léon Spilliaert). So maybe after reading the three episodes of Ali Smith’s seasonal cycle with the colourful arboreal tunnel paintings of David Hockney on their covers, it is no great wonder that this book caught my eye at the local library. Remembering Greta’s enthusiast validation of it, I began to feel ripe to read this catalogue on the Hockney–Van Gogh exhibition held this year in Amsterdam which so cheerfully winked at me.


(David Hockney, Early November Tunnel, 2006 – on the cover of Ali Smith’s Autumn)

I cannot say I was particularly conscious of David Hockney’s work apart from his swimming pool paintings (my excuses for the philistine way of describing them and my apparently living in a cave). As clear from the designation of the exhibition, the focus here is on Hockney’s rural landscape paintings, mainly those dating from his time back in Yorkshire.

The illustrations in the book cover watercolours, prints, pages from his sketchbooks, some his iPad drawings and some of his monumental landscape paintings (like the one he gifted to the Centre Pompidou The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven).


Juxtaposing some of Hockney’s paintings next to Van Gogh’s reveals a noticeable concordance in composition, use of colour, detailed brush strokes and themes:

(David Hockney, Woldgate Vista Juli 2005)

(Vincent Van Gogh, The Harvest, 1888)

Exploring the affinity between both artists, Hans den Hartog Jager draws some fascinating parallels between Hockney and Van Gogh, with regard to their experiments with perspective, their common quest for the light. It is striking that both painters fled what they experienced as the greyness of their home country – Van Gogh went from the depressing Zundert to the South of France, Hockney from London to California – to bathe themselves - and their work - in the sun and the brightness of colour. Hockney has often been testifying of his fascination of Vincent van Gogh, and for instance paid him homage as a source of inspiration by painting ‘Vincent’s Chair and Pipe’ in 1988, referring to Van Gogh’s 1888 painting ‘The Chair’.

Recapitulating David Hockney’s apparently famous tunnel epiphany with regard to perspective (from his drive through the tunnel under the St-Gotthard pass in 1985), the essay added an extra dimension to the choice of the tree tunnel paintings for the covers of Ali smith’s seasonal cycle.

I enjoyed this book thorougly, both the magnificent illustrations and the contextualisation and development of Hockney’s work and the exploration how Vincent van Gogh inspired Hockney. From that tangible ‘joy of nature’ evoked by the exuberance and luminosity of Hockney’s colour palette depicting the changing seasons in meadows, paths, woods and trees speaks a radiant joie de vivre that I experienced as simply infectious.

Profile Image for Chris.
594 reviews117 followers
December 22, 2021
Met deze catalogus werden voor mij twee cirkels rondgemaakt. (1) Ik zag de bijbehorende tentoonstelling in 2019 in het Van Gogh-museum te Amsterdam. Voor Vincent Van Gogh had ik toen al een jarenlange fascinatie. Hockney was eerder die (bekende) naam die ik associeerde met dat ene (beroemde) zwembad-schilderij (A Bigger Splash) en zijn in kunstkringen als provocerend ervaren 'ontdekking' dat oude meesters zoals Vermeer wellicht reeds gebruik maakten van lenzen om hun portretten en taferelen 'fotografisch' te projecteren. Hockney - Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature was een feest van kleuren, seizoenen, landschappen en meesterschap. Zelfs onze (toen nog prille) pubers waren er weg van.

(2) 2021 werd voor mij het jaar van de ontdekking van Hockney. Hoe dat gebeurde, schreef ik op in mijn review van A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings. Hockney ádemt (net als Martin Gayford) kunstgeschiedenis. Hij is ervan doordrongen, zijn werk is er constant mee in dialoog (en in discussie) en de manier waarop hij zijn eigenzinnigheid als kunstenaar en zijn perspectief-overtuigingen weet te formuleren - helder en zonder franje - werkt erg aanstekelijk. Ik werd fan en las vervolgens nog twee erg mooi uitgegeven samenwerkingen tussen Gayford en Hockney: A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney en Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy.

Intussen heb ik nog niets over deze catalogus geschreven. Wellicht omdat ik de meeste zaken intussen al wist na die onderdompeling via bovengenoemde boeken. Wat Hockney en Van Gogh zoal met elkaar gemeen hebben, wordt hier knap en in een breder kunsthistorisch kader geschetst door Hans den Hartog Jager. Ook de verschillen worden behandeld. Toch moet je vooral kijken en je laten meeslepen door de perfect tegenover elkaar geplaatste reproducties. Dáár gebeurt het en hoe langer en hoe beter je kijkt, hoe groter je ontzag groeit voor deze twee verwante meesters.

Al blijft 'the real experience' natuurlijk te prefereren. Ik kan iedereen de Hockney dubbelslag in Bozar te Brussel aanraden, die ik uitgerekend vandaag bezocht. Hoewel toch één puntje van persoonlijke kritiek: wat mij betreft komen de iPad-schilderijen van Hockney uiteindelijk toch beter tot hun recht in klein formaat (zoals in deze catalogus en in bovenstaande boeken) dan uitvergroot in het museum. Daar verliezen ze een beetje aan kracht (en pixels?). Wat niet wegneemt dat zijn iPad-kunst in die laatste twee zalen met The arrival of spring in Normandy - 2020 een mens vrolijk kan maken en kan doen verlangen naar een kleurrijke, levenslustige lente.
Profile Image for Sigrun Hodne.
355 reviews49 followers
August 23, 2019
Discovering new aspects of Van Gogh via David Hockney.

Pairing artists can be difficult, sometimes futil - as when one tries to export fame from one to another. This is not such a case - actually this time it works really well.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
226 reviews11 followers
August 28, 2019
The book takes you through some great visual comparisons in multiple mediums for both artists. From oil paintings and ipad drawings, to some knock it out of the park watercolor botanicals. The reproductions are beautiful and well placed. This book was made for an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum, so keep in mind that the images you see in the book are intended to be an echo of what you would see in person. The book also mentions that a film was made, which I haven’t seen. Regardless of that, this book was great read, though I didn’t agree with all of the comparisons. The writing felt natural and well researched. I gained an appreciation of Hockney’s art that I didn’t have before. My favorite part of the book was the interview at the end with David Hockney and the author, Hans den Hartog Jager. It makes the whole book worth the purchase.

Would recommend!
Profile Image for Reed.
201 reviews2 followers
November 27, 2019
Picked this book up on a lark and was quite enjoyed it. I had learned about the swimming pools of David Hockney in college art history class. I had also studied Van Gogh in a class on Impressionism. However, I had never been made aware of the connection between their landscapes.

I appreciated this book not only for the pictures, but for the interview with Hockney. He describes his fascination with perspective, stating how reading the Stalin-murdered Russian theologian Pavel Florensky's essay on reverse perspective helped alter his perspectives on space. Hockney even comments on how much he enjoys using the Brushes app for the iPad...at least the older, simpler version of it. I might try it out.

On p. 156, he has a great quote on the value of looking, really looking deeply. "So, I went back and looked harder and harder. That's how you learn to draw and learn to look. And if you don't know how to look, how can you make exciting paintings?"

On the inside front cover, he also says, "Nature is endlessly fascinating, endless. I can't be bored at all"

Profile Image for Robyn Bauer.
128 reviews13 followers
May 3, 2023
I saw this exhibition in Amsterdam in 2019 and now finally I have gotten around to reading this accompanying book. Such a great catalog essay and a conversation transcript at the back. Images are to die for.
Profile Image for Mason.
514 reviews
June 29, 2021
A treat to enjoy two great nature painters side by side, I wish I could have seen the show in person!
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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