If there are two London exhibitions that we’re sure to hear a great deal about in the coming weeks, then they are likely to be David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 at The Royal Academy, and Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at The V&A.
Intriguingly, both have fascinating links with East Yorkshire which – for curious travellers, living in a world of untold imagination, where normal rules don’t apply – might just provide the necessary dose of temptation for delving a little deeper (when restrictions allow) down one, or both, of these particular rabbit holes.
Because, for Hockney fans, East Yorkshire is the place to discover the inspiration behind some of his most celebrated brushstrokes and landscapes.
The Yorkshire Wolds have provided the backdrop for a series of paintings that span 50 years of Hockney’s fascination with the area; and a self-guided ‘David Hockney Trail’ around East Yorkshire offers the chance to discover some of the sites that feature in his vivid paintings, which include a favourite location, Woldgate, an old Roman route only a few minutes’ drive from his Bridlington home where he lived at the time.
Among other trail highlights are the countryside around the village of Warter – the site of ‘Bigger Trees’, Hockney’s largest work made up of 50 canvases showing a group of skeletal trees high up on the Yorkshire Wolds; and Thixendale, where he created ‘The Three Trees at Thixendale’, a series of paintings at different time of the year to reflect the changing seasons.
These paintings – the so-called Yorkshire landscapes – reveal thorough observations of the changing four seasons, and how light, space and nature are constantly in flux, offering a vivid insight into Hockney’s love of nature.
An interactive map from Visit Hull and East Yorkshire offers anyone interested in David Hockney’s life and work arguably the best opportunity in the UK to follow in the footsteps of the iconic British artist, through what is now affectionately thought of as “Hockney Country”.
Art lovers and culture vultures visiting East Yorkshire will also find much to enjoy at the Ferens Art Gallery in nearby Hull, which was one of the leading locations during the city’s time as the 2017 UK City of Culture.
Beverley, meanwhile, on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds a few miles north west of Hull, possesses a fascinating connection to Lewis Carroll’s Alice.
A small town, it boasts two beautiful and historic churches: the famous Beverley Minster, a parish church of gothic cathedral proportions; and, at the other end of town, just inside the last surviving medieval town gate, the glorious Norman church of St Mary’s.
Founded in 1120, the church – the oldest building in Beverley – is renowned for its beautiful pillars, many of them musically themed. But if you look closely enough, a very familiar character can be found at the entrance to St Michael’s Chapel where a perky upright rabbit stands on one side of a stone archway with his messenger bag, scroll and staff.
Often missed by visitors, he dates to about 1330 and is long thought to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit.
This particular story tells of Carroll being on a family outing to Beverley when he first spotted the rabbit’s figure in St Mary’s. His diaries refer to a journey between York and Hull during which he would almost certainly have passed through Beverley because of his strong links with the area. His uncle was rector at Burton Agnes and Harpham from 1833 to 1840 and his grandfather lived in Hull. Furthermore, because of his family connections with the Church of England it seems logical that Carroll – who was ordained but who never became a priest – would have visited St Mary’s.
And as for the rabbit? Well, unless new evidence comes to light, he remains a bit of a mystery. No record exists of his purpose and the sculptor left no mark or signature to distinguish himself, though local folklore will always look upon him fondly as the muse for one of literary history’s most well-loved characters.
Due to Covid-19, dates and information may change. Please check the Visit East Yorkshire website, or the individual attraction sites, for the latest updates.
For further information, visit:
David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020
Opening March 27
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser
Opening March 27
Hockney’s East Yorkshire
St Mary’s Church, Beverley
And for all tourism information relating to East Yorkshire
St Mary's Church, the Pilgrim Rabbit
St Mary's Church. Beverley