As a Pop artist who came of age on the heels of the Cubist movement, much of David Hockney's art internalizes the challenge of depicting multiple view-points at once. His photographic assemblages, harboring the many vanishing points of singular photographs, were one solution. As an Englishman captivated by old Hollywood's depictions of the American West, tackling the indefinite viewpoints of the vast landscape was the ultimate accomplishment. In 1982, in an effort to, as he said, "photograph the unphotographable" Hockney took on the Grand Canyon. The assemblage was shown at the International Center of Photography in 1986, but as his interest in landscape expanded later in his career, the desire to revisit the subject by painting it grew stronger.
In 1997 Hockney saw an exhibit on the landscape artist Thomas Moran (1837-1926) at the National Gallery in Washington. Like Hockney, Moran was also an Englishman in awe with the Grand Canyon and one of the few painters in early America who had dared depict the subject -its difficulty underscored by the curator's inclusion of an ad for the Santa Fe Railroad calling the site "The despair of the painter" (D. Hockney, David Hockney: Looking at Landscape Being in Landscape, exh. cat., LA Louver Gallery, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 26). The critic Paul Melia comments that this moment has marked a turning point for Hockney, placing him within the Romantic tradition of landscape painting: "Until relatively recently he was unable to draw upon the Romantic or neo-Romantic tradition of landscape art: personal experience, empathy, quasi-magical feelings aroused by a place or locationall triggers of artistic production for older generations of artists" (P. Melia, "Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, the painters of the St Ives School," Report to the National Gallery of Australia, 1991).
For Hockney, this was as direct a provocation as any, and in 1998, he set off to paint the landmark. The resulting piece, A Bigger Grand Canyon, an oeuvre of 60 canvases combined, (collection of the National Gallery of Australia), achieves a panoramic view and in its vivid colors, draws on the fauvist traditions of Gaugin. Study of Grand Canyon V vividly demonstrates Hockney's process. Hockney shows us a natural amphitheater, with the canyon's farthest walls curved, and the sky given half of the canvas. The vivid hues are a romantic homage to the west, painted by an Englishman, who even after having spent most of his adult life in America, is still inspired by the views. Hockney has said, "There is no question...that the thrill of standing on that rim of the Grand Canyon is spatial. It is the biggest space you can look out over that has an edge," (D. Hockney quoted in an interview by Lawrence Weschler, in David Hockney: Looking at Landscape/Being in Landscape, p. 28.).