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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT JAPANESE PRIVATE COLLECTION

Still Life (Flowers)

Still Life (Flowers)
signed 'David Hockney' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
24 x 36in. (61 x 91.4cm)
Painted in 1966
Galleria dell'Ariete, Milan.
Private Collection.
Kasmin Limited, London.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, Canada.
Mark Glabman Fine Arts, Los Angeles.
Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.
Art Point Gallery, Tokyo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989.
M. Glazebrook (ed.), David Hockney; Paintings, Prints and Drawings 1960-1970, exh. cat., London, Whitechapel Gallery, 1970, p. 58, no. 66.I.
New York, Landau-Alan Gallery, David Hockney, new paintings and drawings, 1967.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Auction

Lot Essay

Painted in Los Angeles in 1966, during one of David Hockney’s most important early periods, Still Life (Flowers) is a rare jewel-like composition that offers an intimate window onto his world. Suspended amid bare canvas, like a painting within a painting, it depicts a bunch of tulips in a vase, framed by bright blue curtains as if poised upon a stage. Fronted by a swimming pool-like structure—a subject that exploded in Hockney’s oeuvre during this period—the work crystallises some of his most significant motifs. The floral still life would become a pertinent theme for the artist, with tulips often standing as a signifier for himself. The aesthetics of theatre, meanwhile, would came to play a vital role in his ideas about pictorial representation, motivated by his interests in set design. Painted in the early throes of his relationship with Peter Schlesinger, moreover, the composition seem to allegorise Hockney’s blossoming romance, with both flowers and pool assuming a sensuous, anthropomorphic quality. Acquired by the present owner in 1989, it is a complex, personal portrait that sets the stage for the evolution of Hockney’s practice.  

1966 was a pivotal moment in Hockney’s early career: a time of immense productivity and inspiration, during which his practice truly found its feet. After producing designs for a production of Albert Jarry’s Ubu Roi in London—the first of many forays into the theatre—Hockney had returned to California that summer. While teaching a six week summer school at the University of California Los Angeles, he met Schlesinger, who would quickly become his first love and most significant muse. Hockney’s infatuation with him was deeply wrapped up in his love affair with California: as well as portraits of Schlesinger—notably the 1966 masterpiece Peter Getting Out of Nicks Pool (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), which was shown alongside the present work at Landau-Alan Gallery, New York in 1967—Hockney celebrated the pools, terraces and light of the West Coast in major works including Sunbather (1966; Museum Ludwig, Cologne), Beverly Hills Housewife (1966-1967) and the seminal 1966-1967 series A Little SplashThe Splash and A Bigger Splash (Tate, London). The abstract representation of the swimming pool in the present work—characterised by a web of curved lines—would later reappear on the bottom of Hockney’s own swimming pool at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

According to Marco Livingstone, it was during this period that Hockney began ‘a shift away from self-conscious style in favour of depiction’ (M. Livingstone, David Hockney, New York 1996, p. 81). While the present work demonstrates the same fascination with abstract pictorial devices that had characterised his early paintings, it also captures Hockney’s newfound personal investment in his chosen motifs. The flowers, in particular, are prophetic of those that would punctuate some of his most intimate and personal paintings, including Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969), My Parents and Myself (1976; David Hockney Foundation) and Self-Portrait with Blue Guitar (1977; MUMOK). The still-life genre, moreover, would come to assume something of an autobiographical role for Hockney: profoundly influential to a younger generation of artists—notably Jonas Wood, Harold Ancart and Matthew Wong—his searing observations of everyday objects became vehicles for navigating milestones of joy, grief, pain and triumph. Nowhere was this more true than in the aftermath of his breakup with Schlesinger: the 1971 masterwork Still Life on a Glass Table, painted during this period, remains one of his most powerful portraits of loneliness and loss. In the present work, however, each petal quivers with the joys of new love: flowers and pool entwine like lovers, taking their first tentative steps onto the world’s stage.

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