UPDATED - 20/11/12

It was the simple tree trunk that helped inspire one of Britain's biggest art shows, but now David Hockney's beloved 'totem' has been destroyed in what the artist has described as an 'act of spite'.

Talking to the Guardian - who also reveal a new sketch of the stump by the artist - Hockney said: "It is something that has made me depressed. It was just a spite. There are loads of very mean things here now in Britain."

Hockney spent seven years sat among the hedgerows and country paths of the Yorkshire Wolds, obsessively capturing different vantage points as they underwent the changes of the seasons.

The result was 2012's A Bigger Picture, a widely-praised exhibition at the Royal Academy that was arguably the highlight of an art year that also included solo shows from Lucian Freud and Damien Hirst.

rpy_hockney_tree_gm13 The vandalised remains of Hockney's 'Totem'
SEE ALSO - A Bigger Picture by David Hockey, reviewed

Such was the impact of A Bigger Picture, the remote part of East Yorkshire found itself enjoying a minor tourist boom as the artist's devotees went in search of the beauty spots he immortalized - including the 12ft high tree trunk he called 'totem' that starred in at least two of his works.

But after paint was daubed over the trunk last month, now vandals have attacked again - this time wielding a chainsaw. As the tree is technically on private land, there is nothing the East Riding of Yorkshire council can do about it.

Winter Timber, 2009, one of the artworks inspired by the trunk

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, told the Daily Mail: "We are disappointed to see the totem has been felled.

"It was an iconic image that helped put the Yorkshire Wolds on the map for millions of people around the world and we hope it's loss does not deter people from visiting this underrated part of England."

Acts of vandalism have long plagued the art world, including earlier this year when a Mark Rothko painting was scribbled on at the Tate Modern.

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  • Monas Lisa

    The world's most famous painting has been the subject of numerous thefts and attacks. It went missing for two whole years in 1911 when Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia stole it, trying to return it to Italy. 1956 was a bad year for Mona. Not only was it doused in acid but later that year a young Bolivian named Ugo Ungaza Villegas threw a rock at it, chipping some of the paint off. This incident prompted the decision to house the painting in bullet-proof glass.

  • Christ Fresco

    In 2012, a well-meaning but artistically incompetent pensioner decided to attempt a restoration of <em>Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)</em> by Elias Garcia Martinez, a highly-prized 100-year-old fresco of Christ. It didn't work.

  • Banksy

    The very nature of Banksy's work means that his pieces are often at the mercy of vandals although he seems to suffer more at the hands of over-zealous councils and builders. His <em>Parachuting Rat</em> (pictured) piece fell foul of an Australian building firm who decided to drill a hole through it to install a bathroom pipe.

  • The Night Watch

    Rembrandt's<em> The Night Watch</em>, was attacked with a bread knife by an unemployed teacher named Wilhelmus de Rijk, in 1975.

  • Rokeby Venus

    Diego Velázquez's <em>The Rokeby Venus</em> was attacked with a meat cleaver by militant suffragette Mary Richardson. This black and white picture clearly shows the damage. Richardson was jailed for six months.

  • The Little Mermaid

    Quite why <em>The Little Mermaid</em> causes such outrage is beyond us but the statue has been defaced many times since it was placed in Copenhagen harbour in 1964. Edvard Eriksen's mermaid has been decapitated twice (once by Jorgen Nash and the Situationist Internationale), had her left arm sawed off and had holes blasted in her wrists and knees. Painful.

  • The Fall of the Damned

    <em>The Fall of the Damned</em> by Peter Paul Rubens is a monumental piece of art measuring more than two metres square. In 1959 a vandal threw acid on it. According to the culprit, he did not directly destroy the work, claiming the acid "relieves one from the work of destruction", whatever that means.

  • Danaë

    <em>Danaë</em>, by Rembrandt, was attacked in 1985 by a clinically insane gentleman who threw sulfuric acid on the canvas and cut it twice with his knife, causing horrific damage. The entire central part of the painting was destroyed but extensive restoration managed to salvage it.

  • Portland Vase

    In 1845 a rather intoxicated William Lloyd took issue with this vase and threw another sculpture on top of it, smashing it to pieces. Lloyd was jailed for two months.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    With a cricket bat concealed in his trousers, Paul Kelleher sneaked into London's Guildhall Art Gallery and decapitated the Iron Lady. After waiting for police to arrest them he said simply: "I think it looks better like that."

  • Guernica

    Pablo Picasso's famous ant-war masterpiece <em>Guernica</em> came a cropper in 1974 when a vandal spray-painted it with the slogan 'Kill Lies All'. PA

  • Away from the Flock

    Damien Hirst's lamb in formaldehyde, <em>Away from the Flock</em>, wasn't safe from vandalism despite being in a glass case. Mark Bridger poured black ink into the tank in 1994 whilst it was on display at the Serpentine Gallery. PA

Highlights from Hockney's A Bigger Picture:

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