Vile or vanguard? Hockney’s latest show divides critics

Artist David Hockney
Artist David Hockney
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THE latest exhibition by Bridlington-based artist David Hockney has been met with a mixed response from art critics.

A Bigger Picture – a collection of canvases, video and iPad images celebrating Yorkshire – is on at the the Royal Academy of Arts in London. It is booked up for the next two months.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  British artist David Hockney poses in front of his painting entitled "The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven)" at the opening of his exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture in the Royal Academy of Arts on January 16, 2012 in London, England. The exhibition is the first major showcase of David Hockney's landscape work to be held in the UK.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: British artist David Hockney poses in front of his painting entitled "The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven)" at the opening of his exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture in the Royal Academy of Arts on January 16, 2012 in London, England. The exhibition is the first major showcase of David Hockney's landscape work to be held in the UK. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

It was initially lavished with praise but there have since been dissenting voices, most notably from famously-controversial critic Brian Sewell who wrote a withering review in the London Evening Standard. He called the landscape pictures of Yorkshire “overblown”, “corpulent”, “garish” and “raw”.

Sewell says: “This exhibition is at the Royal Academy because it will bring in a multitude of punters and, with the outrageous admission price of £14, mightily increase the profits of the grand old whore of Piccadilly, masquerading as a charity.”

Hockney, 74, was born in Bradford and lived for many years in California before moving back to Bridlington.

Sewell adds: “I fell to wondering if he is the Monet of our day, his vision so dimmed by cataracts that he must paint in vile greens and viler purples if he is to see anything take shape on his innumerable canvases.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY.'Artist David Hockney RA with his painting 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven), during a photocall to launch the opening of his major exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture (which runs from January 21 to April 9 2012), at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2012. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

EDITORIAL USE ONLY.'Artist David Hockney RA with his painting 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty-eleven), during a photocall to launch the opening of his major exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture (which runs from January 21 to April 9 2012), at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2012. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“Indeed, half these pictures are fit only for the railings of Green Park, across the way from the Royal Academy, and would never be accepted for the Summer Exhibition were they sent in under pseudonyms.”

Hockney’s old teacher at Bradford College of Art, Derek Stafford, was also less than complimentary.

He told The Sunday Times: “David has become, well, more of a decorator with all those bright colours. If you do landscapes, then look at how Cezanne did them and his subdued colours.

“I’m sorry to say that what David does now is rubbish.”

However, the critical reaction to the exhibition has largely been positive.

Writing in the Daily Mail, AN Wilson said: “As you look around the exhibition, you will notice something apart from the great works of art ... You will see the wonder in the faces of the other people looking at them.

“... Hockney has done what all great artists aim to do – open our eyes and make us see the world again for the first time.

“It is easy to think that the glory of British art is all in the past. But there is a giant in our midst.”

Peter Obourn, of the Daily Telegraph, said: “Hockney is a craftsman ... he respects his audience. His art is accessible, which is why he is loved by ordinary people. He loves them back.

“Hockney understands ... that arts does not belong to an informed elite. No special knowlege or jargon is required to understand a Hockney landscape.”