David Hockney's The Arrival of Spring series, which the Bradford-born British artist began in 2011, marks the high point of his bold, boundary defying approach to the humble landscape painting.
The creator behind some of the most striking artworks of the 20th century, Hockney is much loved by both the contemporary art world and general public. It is his The Arrival of Spring series however, that has particularly captured the market so far in 2022.
Comprising images depicting woods near the East Yorkshire village of Woldgate, each created en plein air on a different day, the 2011 series is a meditation on the joy of early spring. Hugely popular, it has since birthed another 2020 series by the artist as well as a major exhibition. In this article, we take a look at one of the most sought-after series on the prints and multiples market.
According to our Mid-Year 2022 Contemporary Print Market Report, The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate East Yorkshire 4th May 2011 is the top performing print of 2022 in this segment of the market.
It went under the hammer on the 3rd of March 2022 at Phillips London, realising a stunning £504,000. Back in 2018, a copy of the same print was sold at the Philips Hong Kong auction house for just £43,611 - that’s a staggering 1055.67% increase in value over a period of just 4 years.
But this is by no means the first auction success for a The Arrival Of Spring print: since as early as 2017, the series has attracted high prices on the prints and multiples market. In June of 2017, a signed print in the series entitled The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate East Yorkshire 17th April 2011 sold for a very strong £31,250 at Phillips London auction house.
Later, on the 27th of June 2018, a Sotheby’s Online auction saw The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate East Yorkshire 6th May 2011 realise £100,000 - a threefold value increase on its close cousin. In terms of value, The Arrival Of Spring is going from strength to strength; depicting the natural world in all its glory, it brings together some of the most desirable Hockney prints on the market.
For example, on the 19th of May 2022, The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate East Yorkshire 17th April 2011 sold for £221,672 at Phillips New York. With more Arrival Of Spring prints expected at auction in the near future, this series is certainly one to watch for investors.
In 2004, Hockney returned to the UK from his adoptive home of Los Angeles, settling in the coastal town of Bridlington in his native Yorkshire.
Later, in 2006, the artist attended a John Constable retrospective at London's Tate Britain. Impressed by the artist's oil sketches, produced mostly en plein air, Hockney painted large, grid-orientated canvases of the East Yorkshire landscape that recall his perspective-bending photomontages of Arizona's Grand Canyon.
Re-invigorated by the markedly different landscape - and light - of the English north, Hockney began to reflect on a landscape he once knew well, and that now surrounded him once again. Around the same time, he was introduced to the iPad.
Hockney saw great potential in the iPad. No stranger to the boundless possibilities of new technologies, he reacted to it in the same way as he had done to the Polaroid Camera or the Xerox machine: with his new toy, he began to draw a series of colour sketches straight away. This was the artist's first major foray into digital art since his experimentations with the Quantel Paintbox Graphics System during the mid-1980s.
By 2011, the iPad drawings had taken off. The digital artworks that Hockney painted that year led to a major 2012 gallery show at London's Royal Academy of Arts.
A room-sized installation measuring 12 x 32 feet and comprising 32 canvases, The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 was the exhibition centrepiece. Alongside it, the exhibition included 51 iPad pieces, which later became available as original signed prints.
It's no secret that for The Arrival Of Spring, Hockney took great inspiration from one of his greatest influences: Dutch Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh.
Mimicking van Gogh in its choice of subject - the natural world - The Arrival Of Spring also incorporates the Dutch Impressionist's emphasis on speed. Painting 1, 2, or even 3 artworks a day, like van Gogh, Hockney argued that speed was crucial for capturing the 'sensation of very early spring, when the first leaves come out' - a period that lasts a very short time.
The iPad was also part of the artist's tribute to van Gogh. Hockney explains: ‘Why people really love [van Gogh’s landscapes] is because they can see how they’re done. All the brush marks are visible. You can see how they’re painted.’
Thanks to the iPad and the 'Brushes' app, Hockney could also show people exactly how his tactile images were painted, 'playing back' the process of their creation in the form of a short, dynamic video.
Defying traditional perspective has been a major thread in Hockney's œuvre. His Stage paintings and Abstracts - i.e. Snails Space (1995) - all experimented with depth and layering, challenging the one-directional vision of the human eye.
Obsessed by the intricacies of optic rules and instruments, Hockney used the Polaroid camera to create the Composite Polaroid (1982) and Photo Collage (1983) series. Each comprising an illusionist mosaic of individual photographs, overlapped to defy traditional perspective, these works are intimately linked to the artist's expansive depictions of nature and space. Hockney calls these works his 'joiners'.
In 2019, Hockney and his partner moved away from Los Angeles. During a four day road trip to northern and western France during the previous year, Hockney fell in love with rural Normandy; the next year, he bought a half-timbered house there, setting up his studio in a fresh setting that would have just as much impact on his work as Los Angeles did in the '60s.
In early 2020 came the coronavirus pandemic. Almost 10 years since the first Arrival Of Spring series was completed, 2020 saw the artist approach the same theme. What better subject than the joy of Spring's dramatic beginnings for an artist shut away in his nature-filled garden?
During this turbulent period, Hockney would email iPad drawings to friends and curators on a daily basis. Common subjects included fruit trees - subjects also tackled during lockdown by the likes of former YBA, Damien Hirst.
Eventually, these artworks attracted so much interest that in 2021 they were at exhibited across the three Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler galleries at London's Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition - which was a major success - was entitled David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 and has played a major part in the resurgent popularity of Hockney's The Arrival Of Spring (2011) prints.
Another reason for the popularity of the prints? Scale. In the case of the 2011 series, each work is printed on either a single piece of paper measuring 145 x 112 cm, or on a slightly larger format measuring 244 x 183 cm. As such, they can easily hang in buyer's homes.
Availability is also key. These prints are fairly plentiful, having been mostly released in editions of 25.
In 2021, Hockney and influential art critic Martin Gayford released a collaboration entitled Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy. This bestselling book has raised the profile of The Arrival Of Spring series even further. It contains conversations between the pair on subjects ranging from life and happiness to perspective, nature, Hockney's France and of course, the arrival of spring itself.
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