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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more L’ART À FLEUR DE PEAU: PARCOURS D’UNE COLLECTIONNEUSE

Guest House Garden

Guest House Garden
signed, titled and dated 'David Hockney 2000 Guest House Garden' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60 x 76 1⁄8in. (152.4 x 193.2cm.)
Painted in November 2000
Galerie Lelong, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001.
D. Hockney, Hockney’s Pictures, London 2004, p. 362 (illustrated in colour, p. 195).
Paris, Galerie Lelong, Close and Far, 2001, p. 55 (illustrated in colour, pp. 3-4).
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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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Auction

Lot Essay

Wrought with the luminous, tender intimacy of a portrait, Guest House Garden is a deeply personal vision dating from a pivotal moment in David Hockney’s practice. Rendered with loose, expressive brushstrokes, it offers a dazzling spectacle of light, colour and perspectival play, bathed in hyperreal tones of pink, green, orange and blue. Painted in Los Angeles in November 2000, and unseen in public since it was acquired by the present owner the following year, the work belongs to a series depicting the garden of the artist’s guest house adjoining his home and studio in the Hollywood Hills. Begun in the UK that summer, and continued after his return to California in September, this group marked the beginnings of a significant shift in Hockney’s practice. Though bathed in radiant West Coast sunlight, the present work captures the lingering call of his native land, heralding the revelatory grandeur of the Yorkshire vistas that would come to dominate his oeuvre from 2004 onwards. As Hockney began to reflect upon the many places he had come to call home, he trained his eye more closely than ever before upon the familiar beauty of his domestic surroundings. Here, as if seen for the first time, his plants and pathways quiver with near-electric vitality, preserved forever within the searing glow of his memory. The work forms part of the L’art à fleur de peau Collection, more than 100 further works from which will be offered in a dedicated sale in Paris on 13 October 2021.

The turn of the millennium was a time of great professional triumph for Hockney. In 1999, he had mounted three major solo exhibitions in Paris, including his landmark retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou and a seminal show at the Musée Picasso: the first by a living artist. As his international reputation soared to new heights, however, tragedy struck when his mother passed away at the family home in Yorkshire. Her ill health over the preceding few years had drawn Hockney increasingly back to his homeland, sparking a strain of longing for the landscapes of his childhood. His sojourn in the UK during the summer of 2000 brought the theme of home to the forefront of his mind once more: views of his gardens in London and Los Angeles, some created from memory, mingled with scenes from Yorkshire, each infusing and inflecting one another. The winding coastal highways that had dominated his California landscapes became garden paths and country roads; the fresh, clear skies of the British countryside, conversely, began to transplant themselves onto the West Coast. This blurring of boundaries would spark the crucial revelation that would ultimately lead Hockney back home, allowing him to identify the same drama and luminosity in his native landscape that he had previously observed in the canyons, sunsets and sweeping vistas of California.  

Guest House Garden eloquently captures Hockney’s arrival at this crossroad. In the intimacy of a domestic garden, the artist finds a veritable theatre of colour, form and texture. Hockney’s palette is one of near-Fauvist saturation, recalling the work of Henri Matisse, André Derain and others that the artist had channelled in his Californian vistas. The work’s tall bank of trees and near-translucent surface, meanwhile, seem to prefigure Hockney’s depictions of the Yorkshire Wolds, where strains of pale blue would flicker through dense, vertical woodlands. During the 1990s Hockney’s focus on floral still-life had led him to renew his engagement with the work of Vincent van Gogh—an artist he had long admired—and something of the Dutch master’s vivid, otherworldly light is also palpable here. The trees, in particular, seem to emit an almost anthropomorphic quality redolent of van Gogh’s own depictions of forests and groves. These combined influences would, many years later, lead Hockney to a new home in France, where his garden in rural Normandy recently became the subject of a new series of paintings.   

Claude Monet, too, re-entered Hockney’s imagination during this period, due in part to the inspiration he gleaned from the artist’s 1995 retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago. He had emerged ecstatic: ‘I came out of that exhibition and it made me look everywhere intensely’, he explained. ‘That little shadow on Michigan Avenue, the light hitting the leaf. I thought: “My God, now I’ve seen that. He’s made me see it”. I came out absolutely thrilled’ (D. Hockney, quoted in C. S. Sykes, David Hockney: A Pilgrims Progress, New York 2014, p. 320). Monet, notably, had lavished profound attention upon his own garden, and his visions of Giverny likely lingered in Hockney’s mind as he turned his attention to the space outside his home and studio. More presciently, perhaps, the year before the present work the artist had attended the Royal Academy’s 1999 show Monet in the 20th Century, which placed particular emphasis on the French artist’s late works and their influence upon Abstract Expressionism. The present work seems to acknowledge something of this lineage: its fluid brushwork and deliberately flat planes of colour conjure the paintings of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman as much as Monet’s winding pathways and lily ponds.  

At the same time, the year 2000 marked the start of a very different art-historical journey for Hockney. After attending an exhibition of Ingres’ drawings at the National Gallery in 1999—which he visited alongside the Monet show—he started to develop a theory that the artist may have used a camera lucida during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Inspired to investigate further, Hockney began to delve deep into the history of Old Master painting, building a wall of reproductions in his Los Angeles studio that he scoured relentlessly for clues. He eventually arrived at a hypothesis that would form the basis of his publication Secret Knowledge (2001): namely, that optical devices had been used by artists much earlier than previously thought. Notably, the reason for his visit to London in 2000 had been to take part in the National Gallery’s exhibition Encounters: New Art from Old, in which 24 international artists were invited to respond to the museum’s holdings: Hockney contributed a set of drawings of the gallery’s security guards in the style of Ingres. His experiments with the camera lucida served to bolster his long-standing belief that spatial reality and human perception are two different phenomena, and that traditional linear perspective does not offer the most accurate means of portraying the way we experience the world.

Guest House Garden demonstrates Hockney’s engagement with these ideas during this period. The composition stages a dialogue between volumetric depth and flatness, producing a warped stereoscopic image that alternately recedes and advances within the viewer’s field of vision. The curved path and right-hand flower bed appear to sit vertically upon the canvas, while the orange-coloured trees—bracketed by deep blue—seem to hover on the frontal plane like optical illusions. The lines of the building and fence lead to separate vanishing points, while the white apertures gaping through the textured brushwork create a layered collage-like effect. Prior to his work on Secret Knowledge, Hockney had long been fascinated by Cubism, believing that Picasso’s seemingly abstract deconstruction of space was in fact a far more truthful approximation of how we process our surrounding. Such thinking had informed his photo-collages and operatic set designs during the preceding three decades, in which two- and three-dimensional space were held in scintillating tension. The present painting’s setting, in particular, conjures the fantastical garden designs he produced for the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Maurice Ravel’s Les enfants et les sortilèges in 1980, translating domestic reality into a vision of impossible, intoxicating wonder.

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