detail of Bigger Trees Nearer Warter, Winter 2008 by David Hockney, image

Bigger Trees Nearer Warter, Winter 2008 (detail) is painted on nine canvases and presents trees in stately nakedness.

detail of Woldgate Woods, 26, 27, & 30 July 2006 by David Hockney, image

A detail of Woldgate Woods, 26, 27, & 30 July 2006 shows the path winding its way into the heart of the woods.

David Hockney: To See a Tree

Road Journals Blog—The de Young’s David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition—the largest show ever to appear at the museum­—is a celebration of the artist at play, with nearly 400 works in watercolor, oil, charcoal, pixels, and so much more.

At a Q&A two days before the show opened, someone asked Hockney what he hoped to accomplish with this show. He said that when he moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, he discovered palm trees and began drawing and painting them. A neighbor looked at Hockney’s work and told him she had never actually seen a palm tree, though she’d been surrounded by them for many years. So, he told the audience, he hoped that A Bigger Exhibition would help people “see a tree.” He said, “People don’t look very hard. I live to show people the world.”

And a lovely world it is. The English countryside emerges as the star of the show, through walls of huge oil paintings revealing woods and fields in luscious, saturated color. Some of the larger pieces, created with multiple canvases, present a path that welcomes the viewer into Hockney’s lush countryside.

So, get thee to the de Young and let Hockney open your eyes. And, maybe, when you leave the show, as Hockney suggested, you will step out into the rich landscape of Golden Gate Park and you, too, will be able to see a tree.

David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition runs through January 20, 2014 at the de Young in San Francisco. hockney.famsf.org

Photography by Richard Schmidt (Bigger Trees near Warter—detail); courtesy of David Hockney (Woldgate Woods—detail)

This blog post was first published in September 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.