David Hockney’s Yosemite Suite: An Artistic Exploration of Nature

David Hockney's Yosemite Suite: An Artistic Exploration of Nature

As an artist that once declared “new technologies change the way artists see the world”, David Hockney has embraced innovation throughout his career.

Whilst you may be more familiar with David Hockney’s azure Californian swimming pools and vibrant portraits, the artist has been fascinated by the American landscape for decades. In true Hockney-style, he doesn’t aim to paint realistic photographic reproductions, but instead preserves precise moments through his own unique perspective.

David Hockney visited California’s Yosemite National Park in 2010 and 2011, painting impressions using his iPad. The result is a stunning series of more than twenty drawings titled “Yosemite Suite” – which we present today.

David Hockney’s Yosemite Suite

Using the iPad “Brushes” app, David Hockney has spoken of the freedom of painting “en plein air” without the need to carry heavy easels, canvases, brushes and paints.

The digital drawings produced during his 2010 and 2011 trips form the “Yosemite Suite” series. With some prints stretching to over eight feet in height, they immerse the viewer in David Hockney’s particular observation of the California landscape.

Often sunny, colourful and joyful, the works foreground David Hockney’s masterful mark-making.

Paradoxically, the iPad technology allows viewers to get closer to the artist's process – providing an unprecedented insight into the way the artist's hand moves across the tablet and builds-up layers of colour.

A long legacy of landscape art

David Hockney is certainly not the first artist inspired by the grandeur of Yosemite’s awe-inspiring landscape. In fact, the National Parks Service has a fantastic interactive collection of paintings of Yosemite, allowing you to compare artworks with the actual landscape.

This includes the Romantic classicism of Albert Bierstadt’s Domes of Yosemite (1867) as well as William Zorach’s Fauvist watercolour Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley (1920) and more recent depictions such as Tom Killion’s beautifully stylized Lake Tenaya (2004).

The park was initially artistically explored by Hudson River School painters such as Albert Bierstadt, William Keith and Thomas Hill. Photographers such as Ansel Adams and a whole host of twentieth century artists followed suit.

Despite this, Yosemite is less frequently visited by painters these days. This is possibly due to how well-known the park is, in addition to how often it’s painted.

David Hockney certainly isn’t intimidated by previous paintings of Yosemite however. As an artist who’s always fearlessly pushed the boundaries of what fine art can be, his Yosemite Suite drawings are no different. Here’s four artworks from the series, demonstrating David Hockney’s astounding creativity and reinvention of the modern landscape…

Yosemite Suite: Untitled No. 1

In Untitled No. 1, a blue mountain emerges behind a sunshine yellow stone building. The vibrant forms of walkers and tourists are just visible in the foreground, whilst the manicured grass contrasts with the mighty power of nature looming in the background.

David Hockney described how when he uses an iPad, “the colour is right at your fingertips”. This allows the artist to experiment with neon-bright hues, providing a firm counterpoint to the black and white Yosemite photographs of Ansel Adams.

The blue mountain also brings to mind the great renaissance masters, who for centuries were similarly mesmerised by the grandeur of mountain scenery. Just consider Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks or Titian’s many depictions of Alpine foothills. They provide fascinating insights into the “blue hills of memory” that also inspire David Hockney’s modern take.

Yosemite Suite: Untitled No. 4

From the human influence of stone buildings and carefully kept lawns, David Hockney transports the viewer deep into the redwood-lined wilds. In Untitled No. 4, a line of trees with no apparent endpoint shine in bright plum and crimson tones against a vivid green backdrop.

Looking at this drawing, you could be entirely alone in the park. The sun’s rays glint through the tall trees and spidery branches, creating shadows that dynamically cut across the forest floor.

David Hockney once commented that “we see psychologically”. Drawings such as this filter the natural landscape through the artist’s (and our own) experiences and memories. Instead of a direct imitation of visual reality, the bold and bright colours show the landscape through an extremely personal lens.

Yosemite Suite: Untitled No. 9

In Untitled No. 9, David Hockney responds to the mountain landscape with a gentler, even impressionistic touch. Reminiscent of the light, shades and monumentalism of Monet’s Haystacks, this drawing translates the American landscape into David Hockney’s unique combinations of colour, texture and line.

Indeed, David Hockney is a true expert in texture, with dots, lines and scribbles all used to express his idiosyncratic perception of the natural world.

Instead of “mere postcard views” the iconic Yosemite landscape transforms into a point of contemplation. By painting variations on the park again and again (just like Monet’s Water Lilies or the Façade of Rouen Cathedral), David Hockney portrays the natural nuances and changes that may get lost with a single artwork.

Yosemite Suite: Untitled No. 13

Last but certainly not least in this introduction to David Hockney’s Yosemite Suite is Untitled No. 13. In this drawing, a waterfall cascades down a gentle green mountainside. In contrast to the downwards motion, trees swirl upwards in a maelstrom of twisting lines.

Almost oblivious to the grandeur of the natural landscape, shadowy human figures move around the bottom of the composition – with the bright red and yellow cars providing the only counterpoint to subtle green and blue hues.

Just like the series as a whole, this drawing captures a flowing moment in time. It transforms a 3D temporal experience into a fixed 2D representation, posing fascinating questions about the nature of fine art and our experience of the world.

At the Artmarket Gallery, we’re experts in David Hockney’s astounding artworks. With original drawings, prints, posters, books and iPad art, our collection covers the range of David Hockney’s incomparable career. If you’d like any advice on buying or selling artwork by David Hockney, get in touch with our knowledgeable, friendly team today.

All images Copyright David Hockney
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