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David Hockney (b. 1937)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE MILES AND SHIRLEY FITERMAN COLLECTION
David Hockney (b. 1937)

Beach Umbrella

Details
David Hockney (b. 1937)
Beach Umbrella
acrylic on canvas
49 x 36 ½in. (124.4 x 92.7cm.)
Painted in 1971
Provenance
André Emmerich Gallery, New York.
Miss Barbara Thurston, New York.
Private Collection, USA.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976.
Literature
N. Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 303, no. 258 (illustrated in colour, p. 200).
Readers Digest, August 1989 (illustrated on the back cover).
Exhibited
New York, André Emmerich Gallery, David Hockney: Paintings and Drawings, 1972 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, David Hockney: Tableaux et Dessins, 1974, p. 40, no. 20 (illustrated, p. 40).
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, European Painting in the Seventies: New Work by Sixteen Artists, 1975, p. 82, no. 39.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, David Hockney. A Retrospective, 1988-1989, p. 253, no. 43 (illustrated in colour; p. 166; illustrated in colour on the invitation card). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and London, Tate Gallery.
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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.
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Lot Essay

‘The moment Peter Schlesinger left me the figure disappeared out of the paintings for a while – although a presence, some human presence, an absent figure, actually did remain’ – D. Hockney

‘I have always believed that art should be a deep pleasure. I think there is a contradiction in an art of total despair, because the very fact that the art is made seems to contradict despair. It means at least that you are trying to communicate what you feel to somebody else and the very fact that you can communicate it takes away a little of the despair’ – D. Hockney

‘It’s painted using very obviously different textures and paint techniques within the same picture. The actual umbrella is painted with stained acrylic paint, and because it’s stained and you can see the canvas texture, it makes the umbrella seem real. The actual umbrella would be made of something very similar, so there is a connection with one aspect of its reality. All the rest is gessoed around, with the sand painted in much thicker paint so that the contrast is exaggerated. The sea is loosely painted in an intermediate thickness of texture. But the total effect, although it’s a very simple picture, has an uncannily real effect. I realized it’s because your eye reads different textures in the painting. It’s quite subtle. Most people feel it; it isn’t just me. It does work like that’ – D. Hockney

‘A wonderfully vivid study of a beach umbrella casting its shadow on the sand … [Hockney] moves away from the worship of old masters and towards a fresher, more immediate response to nature, reminiscent of the plein air paintings of Corot’ – R. Dorment

A glowing evocation of light and colour, David Hockney’s 1971 masterpiece Beach Umbrella is a work of both visual splendour and deep emotive poignancy. So vivid that it seems almost to intrude into real space, the candy-striped umbrella stands sentinel: bright but isolated, upright but closed, casting a long, blue shadow across the vast expanse of golden beach. A glaring swathe of blue sea offsets the undulating waves of sand, capturing the incandescent quality of Mediterranean sunlight. The umbrella itself seems wilted, but is caught gently by a breeze, and lit up like a beacon. Based on a photograph taken by Hockney while holidaying in the French Riviera town of Sainte-Maxime, the work is saturated with the beautiful Côte d’Azur light that inspired such artists as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Cézanne. Created during a highly productive period following the devastating end of the artist’s relationship with Peter Schlesinger, the work is also a powerful testament to the therapeutic power of paint. Its vibrant colours and rich, tactile surfaces celebrate the bliss Hockney found in the medium as he adjusted to a time of deep loneliness, haunted by Schlesinger’s departure. An icon of its time, Beach Umbrella was a highlight of Hockney’s landmark 1988 retrospective, shown at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art before touring to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Tate Modern in London. It was reproduced on the opening invite for the LACMA show as well as on the back cover of the August 1989 Reader’s Digest, and praised by critic Richard Dorment as ‘a wonderfully vivid study of a beach umbrella casting its shadow on the sand … [Hockney] moves away from the worship of old masters and towards a fresher, more immediate response to nature, reminiscent of the plein air paintings of Corot’ (R. Dorment, ‘Irresistible charm of David Hockney,’ The Daily Telegraph, 26 October 1988).

Hockney’s work is often autobiographical, dealing with need, rejection and intimacy as he depicts his friends and lovers. His relationship with Schlesinger, who was an eighteen-year-old student of Hockney’s in the advanced art class he taught at UCLA, began in 1967. The two lived together in California and London and toured Europe, mixing with Hockney’s huge social circle as a prominent couple in the worlds of art, film and literature. The much younger Schlesinger was far less gregarious than Hockney, and tensions between the pair grew gradually before a blazing row in Cadaqués in 1971 led to the end of their relationship. Hockney was distraught. ‘It was very traumatic for me, I’d never been through anything like that. I was miserable, very, very unhappy’ (D. Hockney in N. Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 240). Out of his great sadness, however, came a time of extraordinary creative output. ‘One effect of all this was that during the following year I produced an enormous amount of work. I started painting very intensely that September. The truth is, I was so unhappy, there was nothing to do but work … Whereas with Peter I often went out on an evening, from then on I didn’t. For about three months I was painting fourteen, fifteen hours a day. There was nothing else I wanted to do. It was a way of coping with life. It was very lonely; I was incredibly lonely’ (D. Hockney in Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 240). Alongside such works as Still Life on a Glass Table (1971), which depicts a solemn arrangement of Peter’s Lalique glassware in Hockney’s London apartment, Beach Umbrella was painted during this fraught but fruitful chapter. That November Hockney would travel to Japan, where, still wounded by loss, he painted his acclaimed Mount Fuji and Flowers (1972). Like these works, the lone parasol and its shadow speak of absence: apart from losing his partner, Hockney had lost a beloved subject for his attentive portraits. In response, he animates the umbrella with powerful, almost personified presence, and affirms life enduring in Technicolor beauty.

Aside from his subject’s narrative resonance, Beach Umbrella is a brilliant display of Hockney’s pure joy in painting. From an early age, exposed to the art of signpainters and cartoonists in his native Bradford, Hockney found pleasure in paint: ‘I think anyone who makes pictures loves it, it is a marvellous thing to dip a brush into paint and make marks on anything, even on a bicycle, the feel of a thick brush full of paint coating something. Even now, I could spend the whole day painting a door just one flat colour’ (D. Hockney in N. Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 28). This delight even eclipses the pain of losing Peter. Discussing Beach Umbrella, Hockney dwells not on his loneliness but on the virtuoso explorations of texture and illusionistic surface that the work allowed. ‘It’s painted using very obviously different textures and paint techniques within the same picture. The actual umbrella is painted with stained acrylic paint, and because it’s stained and you can see the canvas texture, it makes the umbrella seem real. The actual umbrella would be made of something very similar, so there is a connection with one aspect of its reality. All the rest is gessoed around, with the sand painted in much thicker paint so that the contrast is exaggerated. The sea is loosely painted in an intermediate thickness of texture. But the total effect, although it’s a very simple picture, has an uncannily real effect. I realized it’s because your eye reads different textures in the painting. It’s quite subtle. Most people feel it; it isn’t just me. It does work like that’ (D. Hockney in Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 241). Hockney was by this point a technical and compositional master, having just previously painted the magnificent double portrait Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-71), with its challenging contre-jour light source at the painting’s centre; the parasol’s dark and eloquent shadow across the carefully rendered ripples of sand is similarly brilliant, echoing his profound sensitivity to surface in the iconic swimming pool paintings. In Beach Umbrella the artist’s sunlit subject is married flawlessly to the fundamental investigations of space and surface that lie at the heart of his work.

Standing in front of the ‘uncannily real’ Beach Umbrella, Hockney’s avowal that ‘Most people feel it; it isn’t just me’ rings true. Herein lies the ultimate power of his painting: we are brought together by visual language, and in a communication of a time, a space, a feeling, loneliness is transcended. Beach Umbrella is a succinct distillation of this sincere painterly mission, and the colourful umbrella could stand as a rich emblem for Hockney himself. ‘I have always believed that art should be a deep pleasure. I think there is a contradiction in an art of total despair, because the very fact that the art is made seems to contradict despair. It means at least that you are trying to communicate what you feel to somebody else and the very fact that you can communicate it takes away a little of the despair’ (D. Hockney, That’s the way I see it, London 1993, p. 133).

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