Hockney donates huge landscape to UK's Tate museum

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British artist David Hockney has donated a vast landscape of winter trees in northern England, comprising 50 canvases and painted with the aid of a computer, to the Tate, the museum announced on Monday.

Artist David Hockney poses in front of part of his painting "Bigger Trees Near Warter, " which he has given to the Tate, at the Tate Britain gallery in London on April 7, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

The 70-year-old, whose work “The Splash” fetched 2.6 million pounds ($5.2 million) at auction in 2006, spent five weeks last year traveling to and from the scene in Yorkshire and piecing the painting together using a digital camera and computer technology.

“It was a kind of experiment,” Hockney said of the work, called “Bigger Trees Near Warter” which he created to fill a specific space at London’s Royal Academy.

“I’d no idea if this was possible,” he said of the painting, which measures 4.6 by 12.2 meters (15 by 40 feet).

“I did this because I realized I could do it without a ladder. When you are painting you need to be able to step back. Well, there are artists who have been killed stepping back from ladders, aren’t there?”

Hockney was born in Bradford, northern England, and was instrumental in founding the British Pop Art movement in the early 1960s. He settled in Los Angeles in 1978, but has become increasingly interested in English landscape in recent years.

“I keep going back to LA at times, but I feel I’ve found a terrific subject that will keep me occupied for quite a while,” he told reporters.

Hockney said that artists in the United States had more of an incentive to donate their works to museums and galleries, because of tax breaks.

He decided to give “Bigger Trees”, believed to be one of the largest paintings ever executed outdoors, to the Tate out of a sense of loyalty to the organization.

“If I’m going to give something to the Tate, you want to give them something really good,” Hockney said.

“Bigger Trees”, featuring two copses of trees before they come into leaf in spring, was first exhibited in 2007 at the Royal Academy’s “Summer Exhibition”, and it will go on display at Tate Britain in autumn 2009.

Hockney posed with just a fraction of the work for photographers on Monday.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato