I’ve loved the work of Vincent Van Gogh pretty much all of my life. I discovered very early on that I share a birthday with him, 30 March, which somehow made it that extra bit special. Van Gogh has ALWAYS been popular. Who doesn’t love his paintings and drawings? He has been so popular that often elitists would refuse to acknowledge his enormous talent. But if, in conversation you mentioned him there would be that knowing look, ah yes . . . Vincent. In the 1970s it was a bit like owning up to liking a particularly ‘uncool’ sort of band, such as 10cc. Oh, yeah right, y’know I’ve always loved 10cc. Yeah, me too, man.
And likewise we’ve always loved David Hockney – more so now that he’s in his 80s, still loving life and smoking like a chimney. Maybe it’s the Yorkshire accent and Yorkshire attitude – the same way that we love Alan Bennett and his macaroons and friendship with Thora Hird. We sort of lost Hockney to the Americans in the early 60s when he moved out to LA and began hanging out in the canyons, beaches and boulevards and his work got saturated in Southern Californian sunshine colours. But then he came home and rediscovered England and in particular the Yorkshire Wolds. His paintings still have that Southern Californian saturation but, as he explains, the colours ARE there if you take the time to look and, more importantly, SEE, even on the dullest of dull winters’ days . He’s more exuberant than he ever was, he loves painting, something he’s done for over 60 years and he never tires of doing it. It’s well known that he knocks a couple of drawings off on his iPhone and sends them to a close group of friends as soon as he wakes up each morning. His output is quite extraordinary. And since his return to England he has been painting landscapes, BIG landscapes of 30 or so canvases that all join up to make a bigger picture, landscapes on his iPad, landscapes in charcoal in his sketchbooks and big, big sheets of paper. He freely admits, he is in love with nature.
And so was Van Gogh.
So it was only a matter of time that the two painters were put together in the same gallery. And this is what the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has done. The exhibition runs from 1 March to 26 May 2019 and if you see just one exhibition this year, make sure it’s this one. I guarantee you won’t be sorry you did.
The exhibition is called The Joy of Nature. Hockney kicks off his filmed interview by chortling, “The Joy of Nature. Well, that’s nice. Heh heh, I suppose it could’ve been Dave and Vince or something.”
A lot of Hockney’s paintings and video installations are from his A Bigger Picture show at the Royal Academy in 2012 and it’s lovely to see them again. Look! There is the square gallery with each of the four seasons displayed in nine-panel videos of the same country lane in the Yorkshire Wolds. And there, the huge giclée prints of his iPad paintings and his big water-colour sketches of his native countryside. And juxtaposed in the gallery are similar works on canvas and paper by Van Gogh and, boy, do they compliment each other, both in subject matter and in use of colour – and the two artists share and celebrate the simplest love of nature. There is Vincent’s The Harvest, 1888 and there, a few feet away is Hockney’s Woldgate Vista, 27 July 2005.
“Isn’t it the emotion, the sincerity of our feeling for nature, that leads us.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
“Nature is endlessly fascinating, endless. I can’t be bored at all.” ~ David Hockney, 2018
The Joy of Nature: Hockney – Van Gogh
1 March to 26 May 2019
Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam