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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION

Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica Boulevard
signed, titled and dated 'Santa Monica Blvd. David Hockney 1978' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
24 ¼ x 36 1/8in. (61.6 x 91.8cm.)
Painted in 1978
L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California.
Private Collection, San Francisco.
Private Collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1992.
California, Venice, L.A. Louver Gallery, This Knot of Life: Paintings and Drawings by British Artists, Part I, 1979.
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. These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime.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.
Further details
This work is accompanied by a handwritten description signed by the artist.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

Created in 1978, and unseen in public since the following year, Santa Monica Boulevard is a vibrant cosmopolitan vision that signals David Hockney’s triumphant return to his beloved Los Angeles – and, indeed, to painting. Saturated with bold, vivid hues, it belongs to a small group of works depicting the colourful neighbourhood outside the artist’s newly-acquired studio. Painted in conjunction with the vast six-metre-long work of the same title – held in the artist’s personal collection – these theatrical urban scenes paved the way for his masterful Californian landscapes of the early 1980s, including Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Nichols Canyon.

Hockney had moved to Los Angeles as a young man in 1964, remaining until 1968. It was there, under the radiant West Coast sunlight, that he made his first great paintings, capturing swimming pools, terraces and their inhabitants with piercing, luminous clarity. Returning after ten years, he fell in love with the city once more, soaking up its rich colours and cinematic vistas. Having spent the previous four years immersed in other media, Hockney took up his brush with fresh resolve, relishing the new, bright acrylics that he found in local art shops. The present work, with its broad strokes, lustrous textured planes and shimmering dabs of colour, captures the artist’s physical joy in the tactile qualities of paint. It is an ode to the place – and the medium – that had first sparked his imagination, and which were set to work their magic once again.

Hockney’s return to Los Angeles breathed new life into his practice. During the 1960s, his paintings of California had been heavily inspired by his lover Peter Schlesinger, whom he had met whilst teaching in the city. Following their breakup in the early 1970s, Hockney had divided his time between Europe and England, becoming increasingly disenchanted with his studio on Powis Terrace. Yearning for the West Coast once more, he abandoned London in the summer of 1978, taking a house on Miller Drive and a studio in a former furniture warehouse on Santa Monica Boulevard. Presided over by the freshly-restored ‘Hollywood’ sign that graced the top of Mount Lee, Los Angeles seemed bigger, brighter and more thrilling than ever before. The film Saturday Night Fever had just been released, and new crazes such as disco and roller skating took the city by storm.

For Hockney, the effect was intoxicating: ‘I love it all, and feel at home here’, he enthused. That autumn, he began taking photographs using a miniature Pentax Auto 110 camera, which became the basis for a series of paintings documenting the flux of daily life. His newly-discovered brand of acrylics – finely ground with dense pigmentation – allowed him to capture the boulevard’s electrifying colours and textures. ‘I stood outside Musso and Franks the other day Friday watching it all,’ he recalled, ‘and suddenly thought – if Breughel came to L.A. – this is what he would paint’ (D. Hockney, quoted in C. S. Sykes, David Hockney: A Pilgrim’s Progress. The Biography, 1975-2012, New York 2014, p. 81).

As well as capturing Hockney’s renewed love affair with California, the present work marks a new phase in his painterly development. The mid-1970s had seen the artist temporarily sideline painting in favour of various other media: his biggest projects of the period had involved designing productions of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress and Mozart’s The Magic Flute, staged at Glyndebourne in 1975 and 1978. The latter, in particular, absorbed him for the best part of a year, during which time he produced no canvases at all. His series of Paper Pools, created during the summer of 1978, provided something of a transition back to painting, using pressed paper pulp to mould colourful depictions of sun-kissed swimming pools. Yet the lessons of his opera continued to linger, instilling in Hockney a new sensitivity to perspective, lighting, composition and mise-en-scène.

‘It’s only now, in California, that I feel I’m really painting again in a way that’s fresher’, the artist reflected. ‘… I enjoyed doing the theatre and it’s another kind of inventiveness’ (D. Hockney, ibid., p. 97). The present work, which confronts the viewer like an empty stage set, certainly bears witness to this influence. Its shifting interplay of horizontal bands, meanwhile, creates an almost cinematic sense of depth and motion, echoing Hockney’s belief that ‘in Los Angeles everything is built to be looked at from a slow-moving car’ (D. Hockney, That’s The Way I See It, London 1993, p. 50). This sweeping, wide-angled gaze would come to define much of his subsequent oeuvre: painting, more than ever before, had become theatre.

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