David Hockney (B. 1937)
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David Hockney (B. 1937)

A Neat Lawn

Details
David Hockney (B. 1937)
A Neat Lawn
oil and acrylic on canvas
96 x 96 in. (243.9 x 243.9 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Provenance
Kasmin Gallery, London
Galerie Rudolph Springer, Berlin
Mr. and Mrs. G. Webb, London
Anon. sale; Sotheby's London, 12 April 1974, lot 66
Galerie Meyer-Ellinger, Frankfurt
Anon. sale; Sotheby's London, 1 December 1988, lot 680
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
N. Lynton, The Guardian, London, 1968.
M. Glazebrook, David Hockney Paintings Prints and Drawings 1960-1970, London, 1970, p. 66, no. 67.6 (illustrated)
B. Heiner, David Hockney, Kestner-Gesellschaft Katalog 3, Hanover, 1970, p. 20
J. Pierre, Le Pop Art, Paris, 1975, p. 73 (illustrated).
N. Stangos, Pictures by David Hockney, London, 1976, p. 42 (illustrated).
D. Hockney, David Hockney by David Hockney, London, 1976, p. 16, (illustrated, p. 162, fig. 196). J. Miller and F. Elgar, Modern Painting, Paris, 1979, p. 58, (illustrated, p. 131).
E. Lucie-Smith, Movements in Art since 1945, London, 1984, p. 140- 141, fig. 114 (illustrated).
J. Lewinsky, Portrait of the Artist 25 years of British Art, Manchester, 1987, p. 91 (illustrated).
P. Webb, Portrait of the David Hockney, London, 1988, pp. 86-7 and 94, fig. 83 (illustrated).
P. Melia and U. Luckhardt, David Hockney Paintings, Munich, 1994, p. 60, fig. 47 (illustrated).
U. Luckhardt and P. Melia, A Drawing Retrospective, London, 1995, p.102
R. Barnes, M. Coomer, K. Friedman, S. Grant and S. Morley, The 20th Century Art Book, London, 1996, p. 206 (illustrated).
M. Francis (ed.), Pop, London, 2005, p. 171 (illustrated).
Exhibited
London, Kasmin Gallery, David Hockney A splash, a lawn, two rooms, two stains, some neat cushions and a table painted, January 1968.
Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, David Hockney Paintings and Prints, February-March 1969, p. 19, no. 27 (illustrated).
Berlin, Galerie Springer, David Hockney Bilder Zeichnungen Grafik, May-June 1970.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Arte Inglese Oggi 1960-1976, February-May 1976, p. 103, no. 89 (illustrated).
Bregenz, Künstlerhaus, Englische Kunst der Gegenwart, July- October 1977, n.p., no. 124.
Karlsruhe, Badische Kunstverein, Zuruck zur Natur - aber wie? Kunst der letzen 20 Jahre, 1988, n.p., pl. 89 (illustrated).
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, David Hockney. Espace/Paysage, January-April 1999, p. 68 and 86-87 (illustrated in color).
Bonn, Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublick Deutschland, David Hockney, Exciting times are ahead--Eine Retrospektive, June-September 2001, p. 104-105 and 265 (illustrated in color).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, David Hockney Paintings 1960-2000, October 2001-January 2002, p. 32 and 86, no. 19 (illustrated in color).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Lot Essay

Just as Gauguin is famous for adopting Tahiti in his art as his own dream utopia and Matisse made Morocco part of his exotic visual language, David Hockney's international fame still resonates today as a result of his "California dreaming" paintings from the late 1960s. Together with his universally renowned swimming pool pictures such as A Bigger Splash (Tate Modern, London), Hockney's depiction of the artificially manicured gardens and modernist buildings of Los Angeles in A Neat Lawn are considered his greatest achievement. They demonstrate the wide-eyed fascination that the young artist from the cold and gray North of England had for the leisurely lifestyle of California's middle-class. Three years after his arrival in Los Angeles, Hockney had in 1967 fully immersed himself in Californian culture and society. Paintings like A Neat Lawn, although fundamentally representative, have a remarkable abstract quality: they are a distillation of the essence of the life he encountered there.

Hockney's arrival in Los Angeles in 1964 marked the fulfillment of a long-standing yearning for the gay California that he had known from magazines and movies. It was everything he had hoped it would be: a land of possibility, sunlight, swimming pools and beautiful bodies. Two years later, he made the city his permanent home.

Southern California appeared as a tropical paradise to the artist; it permeated the content and iconography of his most celebrated paintings from the 1960s. "There were no paintings of Los Angeles," he recalled of his first visit to the city. "People didn't even know what it looked like. I remember seeing, within the first week, the ramp of a freeway going into the air and I suddenly thought: My God, this place needs its Piranesi; Los Angeles could have its Piranesi, so here I am!" Indeed, Hockney would soon emerge as the painter of the region and visionary of California life.

Hockney painted A Neat Lawn in Berkeley in the spring of 1967, where he had been invited to teach a ten-week graduate course in painting. Hockney worked in a large studio with north light on the University's premises. This space and light liberated him and allowed him to paint the largest canvases that he had so far attempted. In addition to a similarly large scale bedroom picture entitled Tarzana, it was here he completed A Bigger Splash with A Neat Lawn, his most ambitious California pictures to date.

Hockney avoided painting the seedy realities of Los Angeles--the city had after all been a deadly war-zone of racism, rioting and looting only two years earlier during the Watts Riots. Like the Pop artists with whom he associated, he portrayed instead a synthesized reality of the good life and the overtly superficial construct of the American dream proffered by magazines and the mainstream media. He painted modern and affluent homes with their impersonal tidiness and reductive architecture, seductive swimming pools and meticulously groomed lawns.
While celebrating even the simplest detail with loving reverence, Hockney could not avoid also suggesting the superficial nature of this facade. Left largely unpopulated, works like A Neat Lawn signal middle class isolation and the loss of personal identity under a blue sky.

Hockney's highly reductive and stylized pictorial language helped accentuate the sense of impenetrable isolation and the brittle veneer of Los Angeles. A Neat Lawn emits a sense of emptiness and silence, as if the motion of the sprinkler has been captured in the split second of a camera shutter. Irresolutely frontal, A Neat Lawn shows Hockney exploring formal ideas of modernism and abstraction, and playfully shows his understanding of Minimalism. Hockney has trimmed away all the inessentials and deliberately creates a landscape built according to a strict rectilinear and symmetrical grid made up of rectangles and squares. Like Jasper Johns, he wished to emphasis the flatness of the picture plane and despite embracing representation, he avoids the illusion of three dimensions. This resulted in a system of non-naturalistic signs that simultaneously accommodated the new rules of avant-garde painting.

In A Neat Lawn, the illusion of depth is negated by a number of formal means. The composition is divided into three horizontal bands of brown, green and blue: sidewalk, lawn and sky. These colors remain uniform and do not suggest recession. Hockney leaves a wide border around the picture to show the artificiality of representational painting and to further emphasize the literal surface of the canvas.

The centrally positioned sprinkler adds to the symmetry. Appearing as a spray of white pigment, its water is a stylized reference to the drip paintings of Pollock; something he would also explore in A Bigger Splash. Hockney has stated, "I make pretty pictures that are subversive. I love that" (cited in P. Melia and U. Luckhardt, David Hockney, New York, 1994, p. 60).

The largest and most important work from the series of swimming pools and lawn sprinklers still in private hands, A Neat Lawn has received great visibility through its inclusion in several seminal exhibitions and through its recognition in critical reviews. It was first shown alongside A Bigger Splash in the artist's sensational one-man show at Kasmin Gallery in London, which brought him international acclaim. Henry Geldzahler of the Metropolitan Museum in New York stated," The paintings of these years were his best to date and there is one good one after another: Beverly Hills Housewife, Portrait of Nick Wilder, Savings and Loan Building, A Lawn Sprinkler, A Neat Lawn, and A Bigger Splash. All are detached, all breathe a clarity of light, perception and realized intention that make Hockney's new and greater ambition to paint the world of today dead-on, as he saw it, with no concessions to modernism except those that were built-in presumptions shared by the painters at work in the 1960s" (cited in D. Hockney, David Hockney, London, 1976, p. 16).


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