A new exhibition at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum highlights the influences of the tormented Dutch master on the later landscape works of one of the world’s greatest living artists, David Hockney.
The exhibition “Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature” opens Friday and runs through May 26. It features both artists’ landscapes, juxtaposing paintings and drawings by the 19th century Dutchman with Hockney works ranging from small charcoal sketches and water colors to giant, wall-filling paintings, videos and iPad drawings.
“I’ve always found the world quite beautiful, looking at it, Just looking,” Hockney says in the exhibition’s catalog. “And that’s an important thing I share with Vincent van Gogh: We both really, really enjoy looking at the world.”
Curator Edwin Becker compares Hockney’s return from Los Angeles to the northern English county of Yorkshire to Van Gogh’s move from Paris to southern France, saying their relocations helped both artists reconnect with nature.
Van Gogh found beauty in the landscapes of France — from freshly harvested fields to trees ablaze with blossom — even if the darkness of some paintings also betray the mental anguish he could not escape.
Hockney, after a long and productive period living and working in LA, returned to his roots and started closely studying the landscapes around him.
“In the fields and woods of East Yorkshire, he rediscovered again the seasons, the variety of color tones and tonalities, the subtle play of light and the ever-changing weather conditions,” Becker said.
While the show demonstrates that Hockney has been influenced by many artists — such as Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch and Meindert Hobbema — the similarities between Van Gogh and Hockney can be striking.
The pink and blue brush strokes that make up the swirling sky in Hockney’s 2009 painting, “May Blossom on the Roman Road,” echo Van Gogh, even the Dutchman’s dark and brooding “Wheatfield with Crows.”
“If we look at Hockney’s landscape pictures, sketches, drawings, watercolors, oils we feel the heartbeat of Van Gogh,” Becker said.
He added that both artists share a passion for innovation — Van Gogh created his own distinctive style by drawing on movements such as impressionism and pointillism, while Hockney has embraced techniques and technology including iPads, video and photography.
Van Gogh’s paintings, normally so striking, can seem a little overshadowed in the presence of some of Hockney’s works. That’s particularly the case with “The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven),” a huge oil painting on loan from the Pompidou Center in Paris that is made up of 32 canvasses and fills an entire wall.
That work, with its bold colors and strong vertical lines, reflects Hockney’s determination — like that of Van Gogh before him — to breathe new life into landscape painting.
“I knew landscape was seen as something you couldn’t do today,” Hockney says on the museum’s website.
“Why? You can’t be bored of nature, can you? And Van Gogh knew that.”