ARTIST David Hockney says the vandalism of a famous tree stump which has featured in many of his recent paintings is an “act of spite”.

The stump, which Hockney describes as his totem, has been cut down and sprayed with red graffiti. It has inspired much of his recent depictions of The Wolds, such as Winter Timber, which he painted in 2009.

Hockney learned of the incident, at the spot a few miles from Bridlington, after returning from Cologne, which is hosting his record-breaking exhibition, A Bigger Picture. Speaking in a national newspaper, the Bridlington-based artist said: “It was just an unbelievably mean-spirited gesture.

“It is something that has made me depressed. It was just a spite. There are loads of very mean things here now in Britain.”

He said: “It had been cut down a while back because it was dead but I liked the way it was and I said to the landowners: ‘Leave it that way,’ and they did, and then somebody else comes along with a big saw. It must have taken two hours to do.”

In January 2012 The Royal Academy of Arts in London staged the first major exhibition in the UK of David Hockney’s landscape works, David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture.

More than 70 per cent of the work he exhibited used East Yorkshire as its inspiration and was specially created for the exhibition’s Main Gallery spaces, including a series of large scale works.

The world-renowned artist has now produced a series of sketches depicting the remains of the tree stump.