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David Hockney (b. 1937)
Property from a Distinguished European Collection
David Hockney (b. 1937)

Domestic Scene, Los Angeles

Details
David Hockney (b. 1937)
Domestic Scene, Los Angeles
signed twice, titled and dated 'David Hockney "Domestic Scene—Los Angeles" 1962-3' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas
60 1/8 x 60 1/8 in. (152.7 x 152.7 cm.)
Painted in 1962-1963.
Provenance
Kasmin Limited, London
Sir David Talbot Rice, CBE, Edinburgh
Galerie Thomas, Munich
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1971
Literature
D. Sylvester, "Dark Sunlight," The Sunday Times, no. 7307, 2 June 1963, p. 14 (illustrated).
G. Baro, "The British Scene: Hockney and Kitaj," Arts Magazine, vol. 38, no. 9, May-June 1964, pp. 96-97 (illustrated).
Drawing towards Painting 2, exh. cat., London, Arts Council Gallery, 1967, n.p., fig. G.
N. Stangos, ed., David Hockney by David Hockney, New York, 1976, pp. 86 and 93, no. 95 (illustrated in color).
N. Stangos, ed., Pictures by David Hockney, London, 1979, p. 34 (illustrated in color).
P. Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, New York, 1988, n.p. and pp. 65-66, no. 52 (illustrated).
P. Melia and U. Luckhardt, David Hockney: Paintings, New York, 1994, pp. 41, 56 and 62-63, pl. 16 (illustrated in color).
P. Melia, David Hockney, New York, 1995 (illustrated in color on the front cover).
E. Lucie-Smith, Visual Arts in the Twentieth Century, 1996, London, p. 258, fig. 8.9 (illustrated in color).
David Hockney: Espace / Paysage, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1999, pp. 18 and 86.
P. Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, London, 1999, pp. 55 and 59, no. 52 (illustrated in color).
D. Hockney, Hockney’s Pictures, New York, 2004, p. 118 (illustrated in color).
David Hockney Portraits, exh. cat., Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2006, pp. 38 and 51-52, fig. 40 (illustrated in color).
C. Whiting, Pop L.A.: Art and the City in the 1960s, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2006, p. 117.
P. Melia and U. Luckhardt, David Hockney, New York, 2007, pp. 62-63, no. 16 (illustrated in color).
H. Drohojowska-Philp, Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s, New York, 2011, p. 119.
Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art, 1945-1980, exh. cat., Los Angeles, Paul J. Getty Museum, 2011, p. 184 (illustrated in color).
C. Reed, Art and Homosexuality, New York, 2011, p. 172, fig. 5.16 (illustrated in color).
C. Sykes, David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975: A Rake's Progress, New York, 2011, n.p., pp. 124 and 247 (illustrated in color).
A. Snowdon, Snowden A Life in View, New York, 2014, p. 145 (installation view illustrated in color).
R. Smith, "David Hockney’s Life in Painting: Spare, Exuberant, Full," New York Times, 23 November 2017, p. C15.
Exhibited
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, British Painting in the Sixties, June 1963, n.p., no. 147 (illustrated).
London, Kasmin Limited, David Hockney: Paintings with People In, December 1963.
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum; Nieuwe Realisten, June-August 1964.
Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Pop etc., September-October 1964, p. 53, no. 58 (illustrated).
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Neue Realisten & Pop Art, November 1964-January 1965, p. 38, no. 50 (illustrated).
Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, Paintings and Prints by David Hockney, February-March 1969, pp. 14 and 21, no. 11 (illustrated).
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft; Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen; Belgrade, Nationalgalerie, David Hockney: Paintings, Prints and Drawings 1960-1970, April-October 1970, pp. 34-35, no. 63.5 (London, illustrated); n.p. and p. 32, no. 19 (Hanover, illustrated); n.p., pl. 18 (Belgrade, illustrated).
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, David Hockney: Paintings and Drawings, October-December 1974, p. 27, no. 2 (illustrated).
Tokyo, Takashimaya Art Gallery; Kagawa, Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art; Fukushima, Koriyama City Museum of Art; Chiba Sogo Museum of Art, Hockney in California, April-August 1994, n.p., pp. 25, 30-31 and 33 (illustrated in color).
London, Tate Britain; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Hockney, February 2017-February 2018, pp. 53-54 and 59 (illustrated in color).
Sale room notice
Please note this work has been requested for the forthcoming David Hockney exhibition at the M Woods Museum in Beijing from August 2019 to January 2020.

Brought to you by

Joanna Szymkowiak
Joanna Szymkowiak

Lot Essay

David Hockney’s Domestic Scene, Los Angeles is an important early painting that was exhibited in the artist’s first ever solo show at London’s Kasmin Gallery in 1963. Housed in the same private collection for almost 50 years, it is a painting that documents Hockney’s artistic concerns at the very beginning of his career, and acts as the foundation upon which his subsequent career was built. It is also one of the first works that speaks to the themes that make up the artist’s unique vision; it is an example of what would become a lifelong investigation into the challenge of depicting water (which would eventually result in his iconic paintings of swimming pools), and is also one of the first that takes the exoticism (and eroticism) of California as it’s subject matter. Widely exhibited and cited in the literature about the artist, the painting speaks to Hockney’s interest in academic art history and more importantly, displays his unique response to fundamental questions of pictorial representation.

The subject of this 1963 painting is, as the title suggests, a domestic interior in Los Angeles. Across a backdrop of raw canvas, two men are depicted in the act of bathing. One figure, standing under a rush of warm water, is being assisted by another figure who is washing his back. The salacious combination of naked flesh and warm water creates an intimate act, yet it is not the emotional connection between the two that concerns Hockney, rather the figurative elements of depicting flesh and water. Elsewhere in the tableau, Hockney displays ordinary objects that indicate the domestic setting: a vase of flowers, a red telephone, and a chair covered in highly patterned upholstery. Each of these objects was selected by Hockney because they caught his attention—sometimes it was an aesthetic resonance, on other occasions it was something more personal.

Unlike the other two paintings in his Domestic Scenes series, the composition of this particular canvas was not taken from life. Painted in 1963, before the artist had ever visited Los Angeles, it is an imagined scene conjured up by Hockney from a number of disparate sources. Foremost of these was Physique Pictorial, a magazine produced in Los Angeles that celebrated the male form. Speaking about the impact that seeing copies of the magazine had on him, Hockney said “They’re not… very popular magazines; they’re cheap little, in a way, just cheap little gay magazines… But the suggestions, the visual suggestions, from it interested me enough to take me there [Los Angeles]. And in my mind, I suppose, [I] built up a picture. I even painted a picture which I called Domestic Scene, Los Angeles… and it was made just before [I] went to Los Angeles and it was in a sense things like that that attracted me there” (D. Hockney, quoted by R. Meyer, “Los Angeles Meant Boys: David Hockney, Bob Meizer, and the Lure of Physique Photography,” in R. Peabody, A. Perchuk, G. Phillips & R. Singh, Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980, exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011, p. 184). For this particular painting, Hockney borrowed the figures shown here from a photo story entitled “Cruel Stepbrothers” in the July 1962 edition of the magazine; this would explain some of the incongruent aspects of their composition, including the fact that one of them appears to be standing in a bucket (in the photoshoot, it’s a large metal pail). The other objects in the pictures are forms which Hockney had experienced in real life; the large, heavily patterned chair was used in the first painting from the series, Domestic Scene, Notting Hill; the vase of flowers was based on an illustration that Hockney had seen in a woman’s magazine; and the red telephone seen in the extreme right, belonged to the artist himself.

Rather than a true depiction of life on America’s West Coast, for the artist Domestic Scene, Los Angeles is an investigation into the process of looking, and how people process and represent what they see, and in this respect Hockney is following in a noble tradition. Writing in his diary, the post-Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard said that his purpose in painting was to “show what one sees when one enters a room all of a sudden.” He continues, “I find it impossible, in fact, clearly to see the entire room… all but the smallest part of the scene that falls on my fovea is devoid of detail” (P. Bonnard, quoted by S. Whitfield & J. Elderfield, Bonnard, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, p. 37). In a similar way, in his domestic scenes, Hockney paints only what is important to him. “I deliberately ignored the walls and I didn’t paint the floor or anything I considered wasn’t important,” he said. “What I considered important was the two figures, the chair, the bed the lamp, a vase of flowers, curtains, some light bulbs; anything else was irrelevant” (D. Hockney, David Hockney by David Hockney, 1976, New York, p. 92). Thus, Domestic Scene, Los Angeles becomes about looking at the world and the ways in which pictorialization communicates the subject. In his review of the artist’s 1963 Kasmin show, critic Kenneth Coutts-Smith wrote that “The general effect is one of ambiguity, neither the painting itself, nor the painting within the painting is strictly realistic even though stylistic differences underline their separateness. Where does the viewer stand, is he really more real than either” (D. Hockney, quoted by A. Wilson, in C. Stephens & A. Wilson (eds.), David Hockney, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, 2017, p. 54).

This painting is also one of the first to feature water in some form, a motif that would become one of the central concerns of Hockney’s art. From this starting point, his oeuvre would grow to include the iconic paintings of swimming pools for which he is famous today. For the artist, coming from a country where private pools were unheard of, the exoticism of the swimming pool would have been hugely attractive, and as an openly gay man in 1960s Britain, the hedonism associated with California’s pool culture would also have been a major draw. “I was drawn towards California, which I didn’t know… because I sensed the place would excite me,” he recalled. “No doubt it had a lot to do with sex” (D. Hockney, quoted by E. White, “The Lineaments of Desire,” in S. Howgate & B. Stern Shapiro, David Hockney Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2006, p. 53).

Although the artist’s pool paintings would become synonymous with Hockney and the sexual revolution, the first painting that featured a swimming pool did not include any of the attractive young men that would come to populate some of the later examples. The flat nature of Hockney’s perspective is one that would come to be employed in nearly all of his pool paintings, yet here, there is something about his use of light and the openness of the composition that made this painting so revolutionary at the time. “Hockney surely wanted to tweak Francis Bacon’s notoriously doom-laden pictures, with their screaming figures imprisoned in glass boxes,” notes critic and broadcaster Alastair Sooke. “Darkness and angst is, here, dispelled by sparkling Californian sunshine—rendered, by Hockney, in vivid, fresh acrylics. Optimism has replaced despair” (A. Sooke, op. cit.).

But as well as the pleasure-seeking aspect, paintings such as Domestic Scene, Los Angeles had a more serious, technical purpose too. “The great thing about showers,” Hockney recalled, “is that you can see the whole body. The body is more visible in a shower, so it’s more interesting to watch somebody have a shower rather than taking a bath, and that was the appeal, and of course the technical act of painting water has always interested me, the whole subject of transparency. A lot of paintings I was doing at the time… were all about making pictures” (D. Hockney, quoted by C. S. Sykes, David Hockney The Biography, 1937-1975: The Rake’s Progress, London, 2011, p. 124).

As Hockney intimated, bathers, and the acting of bathing, has been an important subject matter for artists since the Renaissance. From the religious symbolism contained within depictions of the act of baptism (the artist has a picture of Piero della Francesco’s Baptism of Christ on his studio wall), to Cézanne’s prodigious paintings of bathers, and Degas’s depictions of women ‘at their toilet,’ the intimate of cleansing has long been a favorite subject for generations of artists. Degas himself commented about his paintings, “Until now the nude has always been presented in poses which assume the presence of an audience, but these women of mine are decent simple human beings who have no other concern than that of their physical condition… It is as though one were watching through the keyhole” (E. Degas, quoted in G. Adriani, Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings, London, 1985, p. 86).

Domestic Scene, Los Angeles was painted in 1963, soon after Hockney had graduated from the Royal College of Art in London with the prestigious gold medal. After leaving R.C.A., he moved into his first apartment in Powis Terrace, the substantial proportions allowing him—for the first time—to live and work in the same space. It also allowed him, again for the first time, to install his own shower, a far cry from the tin bath in front of the fire that would have been his only means of bathing as a child. The artist’s modest upbringing meant that viewing the modern conveniences (like showers) that the 1950s postwar economic boom had bestowed on many middle-class American families left a strong impression on the boy from Bradford, and their apparent obsession with cleanliness and bathing in particular.

Domestic Scene, Los Angeles is one of David Hockney’s earliest paintings in which he begins to investigate a theme that would come to dominate his career. The resulting paintings, such as A Bigger Splash, 1967 (Tate Gallery, London) and Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool, 1966 (National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery), have become part of the postwar cultural lexicon. Scholars have also placed Hockney’s work in a wider artistic dialogue about the nature of Eden, with his depictions of water and the swimming pool being the artist’s very own earthly version of paradise. Thomas Crow has come to regard the artist as a modern-day Gauguin arguing that he “followed a parallel path of integrating his erotic subjects into sinuous, brightly-hued patterns of Symbolist virtuosity” (C. Stephens, in C. Stephens & A. Wilson, op. cit.). As a consummate student of art history, the artist would have been acutely aware of this symbolism of water and bathing, an important subject matter throughout the art historical canon, with artists as diverse as Renoir, Seurat and Cézanne all exploring this important theme. It is with a painting such as this that Hockney joins this centuries old dialogue, and advances it for the Pop generation.

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