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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A WEST COAST COLLECTOR

Small Grand Canyon Study

Small Grand Canyon Study
signed, inscribed and dated ‘For Richard love David 1998’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
13 1⁄8 x 21 5⁄8in. (33.2 x 55cm.)
Painted in 1998
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2001.
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

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Vice-Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Europe

Lot Essay

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2001, Small Grand Canyon Study (1998) is a luminous painting of one of David Hockney’s most beloved subjects. The tightly-framed vista is rich in chromatic incident and perspectival power. A red-pink crag rises in the foreground, struck into shadowed relief by the blazing sun. Bands of orange, mauve and purple recede behind it, capturing a sense of sublime depth as Hockney’s brushstrokes soften, blush and glow into the distance. A cyan strip declares the sky above. Painted in 1998, the work relates closely to Hockney’s monumental A Bigger Grand Canyon and A Closer Grand Canyon of the same year, which depict the canyon on vast, panoramic multi-canvas grids—both measuring almost 7.5 metres wide—and are today held in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek. Like those larger masterpieces, the concise, radiant Small Grand Canyon Study brings together a number of Hockney’s key concerns: the challenges of conveying space in painting, his fascination with the genre of landscape, and, above all, his great love for the American West.

Hockney had been visiting the Grand Canyon since the early 1980s. Some of the first works he made there were ‘joiners’: a form of photo-collage that he had devised to compound multiple viewpoints, unfurling the flatness of photography into a near-Cubist impression of space. His return to the subject some fifteen years later was, perhaps surprisingly, informed by its parallels to the Yorkshire countryside. Hockney had spent much of 1997 at home in Yorkshire, where his friend Jonathan Silver was nearing the end of his battle with a terminal illness. Encouraged by Silver—and inspired by the scenic journey from Bridlington to Wetherby, where Silver lived—he painted large-scale works that captured the area in topographies of dramatic perspective and intense, verdant colour. Back in the United States early in 1998, after a series of long drives between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, he began to see echoes between those Yorkshire landscapes and the rough-hewn, sparsely populated terrain around him: a red-hued counterpart to the greenery of his native land.

Hockney continued to paint Yorkshire from memory in his L.A. studio, and began work on A Bigger Grand Canyon without visiting the site itself, referring instead to one of his earlier ‘joiners’. He made numerous studies, both for the work’s overall design and for the details of its sixty individual panels. He waited until the better weather conditions of autumn before returning to the canyon in person, where he spent a week making en plein air pastel sketches at Powell Point on the South Rim, and further developed his ideas in paint: one two-panel oil study is today held in the collection of the Royal Academy of Arts, London. This period of intense observation led to the second vast multi-canvas work, A Closer Grand Canyon, which consists of ninety-six panels. Comprehending the canyon through a patchwork of vantage points, Hockney explained, reflected the way that the space itself was about remembering: faced with a 200-degree view simply too huge to take in at once, the viewer must recall what they have already seen as their gaze roams across its enormity.

Hockney’s interest had been further sharpened by a retrospective of works by Thomas Moran—an artist of the Hudson River School famed for his majestic paintings of the American West—at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., which opened in September 1997. Admiring Moran’s landscapes, whose grandeur had helped inspire the creation of the United States’ first national parks, Hockney discovered another striking parallel. Before emigrating to America, Moran was born in Bolton, Lancashire, in 1837—‘exactly a hundred years before me not forty miles away from Bradford’ (D. Hockney in conversation with L. Weschler, Looking at Landscape/Being in Landscape, exh. cat. L.A. Louver, Los Angeles 1998, p. 112). Fittingly, Hockney’s A Bigger Grand Canyon would make its exhibition debut at the same museum in June 1998.

As an artist who had blossomed in his escape from England to the sun-drenched, hedonistic freedom of Los Angeles in the 1960s, Hockney found resonances between Moran’s visions of the Western frontier and his own view of the country’s expansive potential. While the Grand Canyon offered him an awesome spatial and artistic challenge—it had once been declared the ‘despair of the painter’—it was no less important as a symbol of liberty. Made during a decade in which not only Silver but also a number of his other friends passed away, Hockney’s canyon paintings convey a wistful, near-spiritual aura in tune with the Romantic sublime Moran had sought a century earlier: a sense of space as possibility. ‘A friend of mine looked at [A Bigger Grand Canyon]’, said Hockney, ‘and said he thought he was on the way to Heaven, as he put it. A very nice thing to say really. My sister thinks space is God, and I’m like that’ (D. Hockney in ibid., p. 31). Small Grand Canyon Study bears witness to this idea, offering a divine window onto the wonder of the world.

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