David Hockney RA, Double Study for 'A Closer Grand Canyon', oil on canvas, 1998.
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

Object of the Month - July 2014


David Hockney RA, (b. 1937), Double Study for 'A Closer Grand Canyon', oil on canvas, 1998

These two canvases are a study for a panoramic work, A Closer Grand Canyon, which was made up of 96 individual canvases and painted in 1998. This was a companion picture to A Bigger Grand Canyon which was painted earlier in the same year. In these works Hockney explained that in depicting the Grand Canyon it wasn't the geology of the place that attracted him but its space. Unlike the earlier composite canvas A Closer Grand Canyon was worked up entirely from drawings, and from memory, with no reference to photography. Hockney stated that this process meant that he gained a feeling of closeness and that a photograph would not allow for the amount of space that he wanted to capture. Hockney painted the finished work on so many different canvases so that equal attention could be given to every section of the panoramic view.

In the Double Study there are variable vanishing points, no one perspective, and the horizon is only a strip of blue at the top of the painting. These are all methods by which Hockney invites the viewer to experience the real space of this natural wonder. The vibrant colouring also conveys the intensity of the sun in this desert landscape that had so impressed the Yorkshire born artist when he first visited the Grand Canyon in the late 1970s.

Born in Bradford, Hockney studied at Bradford School of Art from 1953 and then moved to the Royal College of Art in 1959. He first travelled to America in 1961 and moved to Los Angeles for four years from 1964, where he worked on a series of paintings based on swimming pools. Hockney began working extensively with photographs from 1976, making composite images out of polaroids in 1982. His work with these photographs stimulated an interest in panoramic paintings, which resulted in a series of pictures inspired by the Pacific coastline and the Santa Monica mountains, executed in brilliant colours in a semi-abstract style. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1985 and a full member in 1991.

This painting is on display in the Front Hall of the Royal Academy of Arts until 17 August 2014