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Still Life with Flowers and Lobster at Odin's Restaurant

Still Life with Flowers and Lobster at Odin's Restaurant
coloured crayon on paper
19 1/8 x 24in. (48.5 x 61cm.)
Executed circa 1980
Peter Langan Collection, London (a gift from the artist).
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 12 December 2012, lot 1.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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.

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Lot Essay

For decades, Odin’s was a chic, boisterous restaurant in the heart of Marylebone. Established by Peter Langan, the Irish restaurateur and bohemian bon-vivant, the restaurant had a certain joie de vivre, making it a destination where diners gathered for excellent food and great conversation. This charmingly unstudied ambience is superbly conjured in David Hockney’s Still Life with Flowers and Lobster at Odin’s Restaurant (circa 1980). Against a darkly shaded ground, Hockney captures his impressions of the restaurant in vibrant crayon: an empty wine glass, two large lobsters, and an abundant bouquet of magenta and purple blossoms, all delicately positioned atop a white tablecloth. Hockney is a vivid painter of flowers, and his depiction here of a ceramic jug brimming with posies and leaves is redolent of the scent of a fresh spring morning. The scene evokes an old-world atmosphere, the decadence of a late night out, gastronomical and convivial pleasure. It is tempting, too, to read Still Life with Flowers and Lobster at Odin’s Restaurant as a portrait of Langan himself, who seems to have just stepped away from the table. Indeed, the restaurateur famously required freshly cut flowers to be set at each table, playfully referenced here in the colourful bouquet.

Hockney met Langan at Odin’s at the end of the 1960s through the artist Patrick Procktor; they would later co-design the menu for another of Langan’s restaurants. Hockney became a frequent diner at the restaurant, which was a clubhouse of sorts for young artists. Like the great Modernists before him, he occasionally exchanged drawings and prints for meals. Langan became both a friend and a patron to the artist, championing his practice and amassing a large collection of Hockney’s works which he displayed on the walls of his restaurant. The two would overlap outside of Odin’s as well. In 1975, just after Hockney moved back to London from Paris, he was commissioned to design the costumes and sets for Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress to be performed at Glyndebourne Festival. To celebrate Langan organised a now infamous banquet, which Hockney recalled as ‘spectacular’: ‘The picnic was supposed to be for about thirty people, but Peter took 120 bottles of champagne and none went back. I did point out to him, 'That's four bottles each, Peter!' The food was fantastic, enormous lobsters, best hams, marvellous smoked salmon – he knew where to get the good stuff. It was spectacular’ (D. Hockney, quoted in C. Simon Sykes, David Hockney, A Rake’s Progress, The Biography, 1937-1975, New York 2011, pp. 325-326).

It was during this period that Hockney experimented with Caran d’Ache crayons to draw his exuberant, at times whimsical images; as a discipline, drawing has informed Hockney’s approach to all other mediums. Through crayon he pursued a rigorous interrogation of mark making, influenced in part by the French avant-garde. ‘I thought that the one thing that the French were marvellous at, the great French painters, was making beautiful marks,’ Hockney recalled. ‘Picasso can’t make a bad mark, Dufy makes beautiful marks, Matisse makes beautiful marks’ (D. Hockney, quoted in U. Luckhardt and P. Melia, David Hockney: A Drawing Retrospective, London 1996, p. 187). In expressive lines and richly worked colour, Hockney records the people and landscapes he comes across in his ever-present sketchbook. He is at heart an autobiographical artist. Responding to the artist’s 2020 solo exhibition Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, critic Roberta Smith wrote, ‘Mr. Hockney is essentially documenting his life as it has entwined with others’ (R. Smith, ‘A Poignant, Cozy Look at the Faces He Sees’, New York Times, 2 October 2020, p. C1). In Still Life with Flowers and Lobster at Odin’s Restaurant, he summons an entire world in bright, cheerful colour: the joy of a delicious meal, an evening spent with old friends, the smell of spring flowers.

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