David Hockney urged his creative colleagues to give generously to Britain's museums and galleries yesterday as he donated his largest-ever painting to the Tate, describing it as an artist's "duty" to give back to public institutions.
Speaking at Tate Britain beside a segment of his 40ft-wide painting of a Yorkshire landscape in Spring, Bigger Trees near Warter, Hockney said he felt a responsibility to donate to galleries, particularly to Tate, which was among the first to buy his works in the early 1960s when he was fast emerging as one of Britain's biggest creative talents.
Admitting he was considering giving another piece of his work to the same gallery, Hockney said: "I think it's the duty of artists, once they have become successful, to give. I felt the Tate has supported me....I felt that is what I should do. The Tate asked me two years ago about giving things. I thought, 'If I'm going to give something, I want to give them something really good,'" he said.
The painting, which would sell for millions on the open market, spanned a whole wall at the Royal Academy when it was unveiled at last year's Summer Exhibition and will be exhibited at the Tate, either in its entirely or in parts, next autumn. The artist has also donated two photographic renderings of the painting on paper sheets in the same dimensions.
Hockney, 70, who is credited as the father of British pop art, said he was considering giving other works to the Tate, adding that he is "aware it might spend some time in the cellars". He last gave a group of prints to the gallery 10 years ago and has also donated to the Country Museum in Los Angeles, where he lived for three decades.
Nicholas Serota, the director of Tate Galleries, which owns seven other paintings by Hockney including The First Marriage, acquired a year after Hockney completed it in 1962, said institutions ought to try hard to encourage higher levels of "giving".
"For a long period, there was a sense that the state would provide and there was insufficient recognition given to individuals prepared to make a major donation ... When people give, they will not only be thanked but remembered," he said.
The Tate called Hockney's donation one of the most generous gifts presented by an artist to a British gallery in recent years.