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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection

Winter Timber

Winter Timber
signed, titled and dated 'Winter Timber David Hockney 2009' (on the reverse of the upper left canvas)
oil on canvas, in 15 parts
Overall: 108 x 240 in. (274.3 x 609.6 cm.)
Painted in 2009
PaceWildenstein, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2009.
C. Kino, "Hockney's Long Road Home" in New York Times, 18 October 2009, section AR (illustrated in situ in the studio, p. 1).
L. Mouillefarine, “David Hockney: Gentleman iPainter” in Madame Figaro, 29 October 2010.
M. Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, New York, 2011, p. 242 (illustrated in situ in the studio, p. 77).
M. Livingstone, David Hockney: My Yorkshire, London, 2011 (illustrated in color, pp. 55-56).
H. Chu, "Home, In a New Light," in Los Angeles Times, 12 February 2012 (illustrated in color, p. E1).
H. Obrist, “More Power” in Parkett, vol. 92, June 2013 (illustrated in color, p. 198).
H. Holzwarth, David Hockney, A Bigger Book, Cologne, 2016, p. 418.
D. Hockney and H. Holzwarth, eds., David Hockney - A Chronology, Cologne, 2020 (illustrated in color in situ, p. 478-479).
M. Livingstone, David Hockney (Fourth Edition), London, 2017, p. 208-209 (illustrated in color, fig. 238).
New York, PaceWildenstein, David Hockney: Paintings 2006-2009, October-December 2009, p. 83 (illustrated in color, pp. 5 and 66-68).
London, Royal Academy of Arts; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Cologne, Ludwig Museum, David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, January 2012-February 2013 (illustrated in situ in the studio on the exhibition poster).
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, Color & Pattern, April-July 2017.
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Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

David Hockney’s Winter Timber is a celebration of the act of painting, executed by one of the world’s greatest living artists. Measuring nearly twenty feet across, the present work captures the stark beauty of his beloved Yorkshire countryside in a palette of bold Fauvist hues. Combining the formal rigor of the seasonal treescape with the richness of his striking violet and blue palette results in a painting which resonates with both painterly and aesthetic virtuosity. Painted in 2009, it also marks the triumphal phase of Hockney’s late career; famous for his iconic 1960s paintings of Californian swimming pools, in 2002 he returned to England to produce these celebrated large-scale landscapes. Exhibited at Hockney’s seminal exhibition David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, organized by the Royal Academy in London in 2012—and which later traveled to the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Museum Ludwig Cologne—Winter Timber sets itself apart as one of his most heroic paintings to date.
The monumental scale of Hockney’s landscape results in a painting that emits the palpable sense of the dramatic beauty that Hockney saw in the Yorkshire landscape. Depicting a copse of majestic, tall trees, a series of strong verticals dominate the upper portion of the canvases. The fastidious nature of these solid upright forms is disrupted only by delicate branches that emerge from the trunks at acute angles. In the middle-ground, this verticality is contrasted by the horizontal arrangement of the freshly felled trees that lie to the side of the country lane, their pale color contrasting with the dark tomes of their living counterparts. The foreshortening of their limbs acts to draw the eye into the composition, contrasting with the dominant vertical of the totemic trees (as Hockney termed them) such as the one that stands guard over its fallen comrades. Finally, the gentle curve of the country lane as it sweeps through the composition offsets and softens the strict rigidity of the rest of the overall composition.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this painting is Hockney’s striking use of color. Building on the tradition of his Fauvist forebears, the non-naturalistic pigments work to convey the winter scene with a palpable sense of poetic drama. Hockney recognizes that these bold hues are in fact a true reflection of the shades and tones produced by the long shadows cast by the low sun on northern winter days. “Winter is all about line…,” he notes. “People have it all wrong imagining it to be a time when the world goes all dead. Trees are never more alive than in winter, you can virtually see the life force, thinned but straining, pulsing, the branches stretching palpably, achingly towards the light” (quoted in L. Weschler, “David Hockney: Painting again in East Yorkshire,” in David Hockney: Recent Paintings, exh. cat., Pace Wildenstein, New York, 2009, p. 11). Here he has learnt from Henri Matisse, and paintings such as Vue de Collioure et la mer (1911, The Museum of Modern Art, New York). “…anyone studying [Matisse],” Hockney has said, “will say a great deal of his painting is about color and form, but to deny the poetry and the sentiment in his painting is to deny some of the art, to diminish it” (quoted in C. Simon Sykes, David Hockney. The Biography, 1975-2012: A Pilgrim’s Progress, London, 2014, p. 53). Along with Matisse, and his other hero Vincent van Gogh, Hockney utilizes color to symbolize the psychological and emotional links he has with the landscape.
To understand the revolutionary nature of Hockney’s landscapes it seems necessary to go back to the beginning of the artist’s career and his dramatic move to America. In 1966, fed up with what the young Hockney regarded as the repressive nature of postwar British society, he boarded a flight to the United States, and after an initial stop in New York, eventually arrived in Los Angeles, a place he described as “the promised land… the world’s most beautiful city” (quoted in A. Sooke, “The Bewitching Allure of Hockney’s Swimming Pools,” BBC Culture, online: www.bbc.co.uk/culture). Growing up in the industrial town of Bradford, the attractions of California would have been obvious. Apart from the vastly different climate, childhood memories of the hardship of wartime Britain and the austerity that followed would have seemed a world away from the beach and consumer culture of America.
Hockney’s paintings of swimming pools and palm trees have become some of the most iconic and recognizable images of the postwar canon. In addition to the exoticism and eroticism of their subject matter, they are also examples of Hockney’s interest in the technicalities of painting and image making—something which continues to carry through to his landscapes today. In the case of his swimming pools, he was intrigued by the technical challenges of rendering formless, colorless, and constantly shifting bodies of water. 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 ‘60s cultural lexicon. Scholars have also placed Hockney’s work in a wider artistic dialogue about the nature of Eden, with the swimming pool being Hockney’s own earthly version of Paradise.
In 2002, Hockney made a dramatic shift and moved from focusing his subject matter on portraits to painting landscapes. Done in part as a way of exploring a new medium for him—that of watercolor—his paintings soon morphed from small sketches to monumental presentations. In early 2008, he moved into a new, much larger, studio and the scale of his new surroundings invigorated him. “I felt twenty years younger. I stopped feeling frail and started feeling energetic… I think it will make a difference to the work and to me being in a bigger space” (quoted in M. Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, London, 2011, p. 76).
In many ways, his emotional connection to the landscape is what makes Hockney’s landscapes so striking. They are the physical representations of a particular place and time, but as with most landscapes—and particularly with Hockney—they are also a window onto his own reality. Each painting becomes part of Hockney himself. As with Gustav Klimt’s landscapes, the quietness, stillness and majesty of the landscapes of East Yorkshire are intrinsic to Hockney’s own being, “Painting nature during these years,” concludes curator Marco Livingstone, “has accentuated Hockney’s appreciation of the preciousness of each moment and of life itself” (“The Road Less Traveled,” in M. Livingstone and E. Devaney, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2012, p. 25). Thus, after six decades of being one of the most important and innovative painters of his generation, his paintings of his native Yorkshire may be Hockney’s most personal and lasting legacy.

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