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

Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime

Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime
signed and dated ‘David Hockney 1969’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
48 1/8 x 60 1/8in. (122.1 x 152.6cm.)
Painted in 1968-1969
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc., London.
Private Collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie’s New York, 9 November 1988, lot 72.
Acquired at the above sale.
N. Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, pp. 126, 160, 173 and 302, no. 211 (illustrated, p. 172).
David Hockney: Travels with Pen, Pencil and Ink, exh. cat., Connecticut, Yale Center for British Art, 1978, p. 13.
M. Livingstone, David Hockney, London 1987, pp. 118 and 247, no. 95 (illustrated, p. 118).
P. Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, New York 1989, p. 101.
P. Melia (ed.), David Hockney, Manchester 1995, p. 122.
David Hockney: Espace/Paysage, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1999, p. 120 (illustrated, p. 179).
David Hockney: Exciting Times are Ahead - Eine Retrospektive, exh. cat, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2001 (illustrated, p. 228).
S. Howgate and B. S. Shapiro, David Hockney Portraits, exh. cat., Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2006, p. 37.
M. Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, London 2016, p. 50 (illustrated in colour, p. 51).
D. Hockney, H. W. Holzwarth and J-P. Gonçalves de Lima (eds.), David Hockney: A Chronology, Cologne 2016 (installation view at Whitechapel Art Gallery, p. 136).
M. Livingstone, David Hockney, London 2017, pp. 120-121, no. 99 (illustrated in colour, p. 122; dated '1968').
C. Stephens and A. Wilson (eds.), David Hockney, exh. cat., London, Tate Britain, 2017-2018, p. 18 (illustrated in colour, p. 17; dated '1968').
New York, André Emmerich Gallery, David Hockney, 1969.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, David Hockney: Paintings, prints and drawings 1960-1970, 1970, p. 16, no. 68.6 (illustrated in colour, p. 72; dated '1968'). This exhibition later travelled to Hanover, Kestner Gesellschaft; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and Belgrade, Muzej Savremene Umetnosti.
Newcastle upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery, David Hockney: Paintings, drawings and prints, 1976, p. 10, no. 11 (illustrated, p. 26; dated '1968').
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. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.

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Lot Essay

A sublime, radiant tribute to the South of France, Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime is a virtuosic tour de force dating from a unique moment in David Hockney’s early practice. Rendered in exquisite detail, it captures a majestic sunrise over the French Riviera, its glass-like waters bathed in the sparkling light of a new day. A fiery orb hangs low against a deliquescent pink and violet sky, casting a dazzling reflection that glistens like liquid gold. The sea, dotted with tiny luminous flecks, is awash with tones of purple, azure and aquamarine; in the distance, boats and buildings are dramatically silhouetted against the sky, while a midnight blue jetty slices through the foreground, the entire surface shimmering as it catches the light. Painted at the height of Hockney’s romance with Peter Schlesinger, the work’s poetic vista speaks to a time of both personal contentment and professional triumph. Situated between his seminal Californian swimming pool paintings and the ground-breaking ‘naturalism’ of his double portraits, its spectacular sweeping reflection seems not only to echo the gestural drama of his 1967 masterpiece A Bigger Splash (Tate, London), but also to foreshadow the glimmering waters of his poignant tribute to Schlesinger Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972). Included in Hockney’s first retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1970, and unseen in public for over three decades, it is a work of rare, near-cinematic beauty that—in both subject and style—ushers in a thrilling new dawn.

The work belongs to a group of four paintings based on photographs that Hockney took during a European sojourn with Schlesinger during the Autumn of 1968. As well as taking a cruise down the Rhine—where Hockney had gleaned inspiration for his series of etchings based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales—the couple had spent time in the home of the film director Tony Richardson, near St Tropez. Hockney had first met Richardson while working on set designs for Ubu Roi at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966, and the two instantly struck up a connection, bound by their northern roots and love of southern climes. He and Schlesinger became regular guests at the director’s lavish, sensational house parties at ‘Le Nid du Duc’, set in the mountains just outside La Garde-Freinet. The Côte d’Azur was a region steeped in artistic history: painters from Claude Monet to Paul Signac and Henri Matisse had flocked there in droves, drawn to its clarity of light, while later artists such as Pablo Picasso and Nicolas de Staël would take homes in the region. By the 1960s, it had also become an important hub for filmmakers, immortalised in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955)—starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant—and made famous by stars such as Brigitte Bardot. Here, in the land that had birthed modern art and cinema, Hockney too would make his mark.

At the time of his trip to Sainte-Maxime, Hockney had recently returned to London after four years in California, and was living with Schlesinger on Powis Terrace. The South of France, with its sparkling shores and endless summers, became an instant draw for both of them, and would come to play a central role in their relationship. Indeed, after their devastating break-up in 1971, it was Richardson’s home that became the setting for some of Hockney’s most cathartic paintings, including Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) and Pool and Steps, Le Nid du Duc (1971). At the time of the present painting, however, the two were very much in love. They had met in the summer of 1966, while Schlesinger was a student at the University of California Santa Cruz. While there, he attended a six-week drawing summer school run by the young Hockney at the University’s Los Angeles campus, and the two became infatuated with one another, striking up a friendship that eventually blossomed into what became Hockney’s first significant relationship. The present work’s sunrise, full of hope, joy and romance, is a vivid evocation of young love in its prime. Notably, the imagery would ultimately come full circle: it was with a poignant sunset that Hockney ultimately bade farewell to his lover in the deeply emotive 1971 painting Sur la Terrasse.

It was Schlesinger who, indirectly, had first prompted Hockney to think about light: a move that brought about a seismic shift in his practice. While painting The Room, Tarzana (1967)—a tender portrait of Schlesinger asleep upon a bed—the artist was hit by a profound revelation: ‘I first realised the light in the room was a subject’, he recalls, ‘and for the first time it became an interesting thing for me’ (D. Hockney, David Hockney: My Early Years, London 1976, p. 124). Hockney had broached some of these concerns in his depictions of swimming pools: the flourishing surface of A Bigger Splash, notably, anticipates the dispersion of light across the present work’s surface, whose glistening reflection is seemingly painted in a single, ecstatic gesture. A pool or an ocean, Hockney came to realise, was ultimately a wellspring of luminosity, ever-changing and never static. ‘The idea of painting moving water in a very slow and careful manner was (and still is) very appealing to me’, he explained; ‘… it is a formal problem to represent water, to describe water, because it can be anything—it can be any colour, it’s movable, it has no set visual description’ (D. Hockney, quoted in N. Stangos (ed.), Pictures by David Hockney, London 1979, p. 48).

These concerns came to a head in Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime. Keen to look ever-more closely at the world around him, Hockney had purchased a 35mm Pentax camera, and between 1967 and 1969 began to document the things he saw with almost obsessive frequency. ‘Anything that interests me I take photographs of’, he explained at the time. ‘I usually carry a little camera in my pocket and then I have a bigger camera, so I’m always clicking away at things’ (D. Hockney, quoted in M. Glazebrook, ‘David Hockney: an interview’, in David Hockney: Paintings, Prints and Drawings 1969-1970, exh. cat. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1970, p. 12). Speaking of the present work, he recalls that ‘I took a photograph of the scene and I was so impressed with it that I just painted it like that … it is one painting where I didn’t try and dominate the scene’ (D. Hockney, artist statement 1970, reproduced ibid., p. 72). Together with L’Arbois, Sainte-Maxime (1968), Parking privé (1968) and Schloss (1968), it represents Hockney’s first serious use of his own photographs as inspiration. Where the swimming pool paintings would stylise their depictions of water, here the artist remains faithful to his source: painted freehand, without aids or projections, it is a remarkable display of technical prowess, every ripple, curlicue and wavelet frozen in vivid, eternal splendour.

In many ways, the work taps into wider artistic currents that were rife at the time. Photorealism was in its heyday in the late 1960s: particularly in America, but also in Europe, where artists such as Gerhard Richter breathed powerful new life into the genre. Richter, like Hockney, was a relentless collector of photographs, documenting them in his long-running album Atlas. He was fascinated by the notion that the camera could be just as deceptive as paint, and his neo-Romantic cloudscapes, seascapes and landscapes sought to emphasise the fact that pictorial ‘truth’ was ultimately an elusive, fictitious concept. Like Richter’s photo-paintings, the present work plays with the same sense of awe-inspiring transcendence conjured by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich. For Hockney, such endeavours would ultimately fuel a broader pursuit of naturalism that found exquisite expression in his double portraits. At the time of the present work, he had just finished Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (1968), and was engaged in preparation for his landmark painting Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969). In the latter, photography would come to play a more critical role than ever before, forcing the artist to pay minute attention to the slippages in lighting and spatial perception that define how we truly see the world.

In Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime, then, the seeds of this trajectory were sown. Indeed, Hockney’s pursuit of the relationship between photography and painting would ultimately come to define his practice, leading him from naturalism to post-Cubist collage, film and digital media. His seminal 2001 study Secret Knowledge would also spring from this line of enquiry, asking to what extent the camera lucida and other optical devices could be detected in visual DNA of Old Master paintings. Underpinning his thesis was that paint has the power to re-inscribe the temporal dimensions eliminated by photography: that the slow, painstaking act of putting brush to canvas offered a better approximation of human vision, accounting for the complex, extended processes that allow us to fully focus on the detail of our surroundings. While Hockney would later dramatise this revelation through disjointed angles and simultaneous perspectives, here it is played out in the minutiae of his brushwork. The dispersion of light is replayed with immaculate scrutiny; the shifting chromatic gradients are broken down and reassembled with unwavering precision. ‘Painting comes much closer to the real experience of watching what happens in life’, Hockney explained. ‘Painting is more real than photography. It’s got time in it, layers of time’ (D. Hockney, quoted in P. Adam, Hockney at Work, BBC documentary, 1981).

While Richter was cynical about the power of paint to act as a window onto the world, Hockney embraced the notion with pure unadulterated joy. The drama of nature remained a constant source of fascination to him, carrying him all the way through from his early Californian vistas to his grand, theatrical canyon paintings, his Wagnerian sunset drives and his sublime views of the Yorkshire Wolds. The thrill of early morning, too, would remain with him throughout his career, leading him to admire the works of J. M. W. Turner, Claude Lorrain and others who devoted themselves to capturing the changing light of day. ‘Would Turner have slept through such terrific drama?’, he wondered aloud to Martin Gayford after watching a particularly spectacular sunrise over the North Sea. ‘Absolutely not!’ (D. Hockney, quoted in M. Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, London 2016, p. 6). Hockney, in this regard, was similarly indebted to Monet, who had famously described the French Riviera as ‘so beautiful, so bright, so luminous’. Peter Webb, indeed, compares the present work to a ‘Monet sunrise’, its exquisite chromatic modulations and hyper-real palette resonating with the French master’s radiant evocations of dawn (P. Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, London 1988, pp. 132-133).

Hockney owed much of his success during this period to his newfound embrace of acrylic: a medium whose properties are sumptuously demonstrated here. ‘The great way to use acrylics is the very old fashioned method of glazing with washes’, he explained. ‘… The glaze dries in ten minutes and then you can put another on so it’s just adapting it’ (D. Hockney, quoted in M. Glazebrook, ibid., pp. 11-12). The sense of freedom that this method afforded him fuelled his transition from the swimming pool paintings to the double portraits, giving rise to a body of work that cemented Hockney’s place in the public eye. At the end of 1967, he had won first prize at the prestigious John Moore’s Exhibition in Liverpool, with the painting Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool (1966, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). In January 1968 his fourth solo exhibition with Kasmin in London—featuring The Room, Tarzana and A Bigger Splash, among other works—received critical acclaim; that year, he would participate in the major touring group exhibition European Painters of Today organised by the Musée des Art décoratifs, Paris, as well as documenta 4 in Kassel. His Whitechapel retrospective in 1970 marked the culmination of this early period, serving to cement his status at the forefront of contemporary British art.

Writing in the catalogue for the exhibition, curator Mark Glazebrook explained that ‘A pre-occupation with naturalistic vision has been gaining ground since 1964. The age old problem of how to create a convincing illusion of light, space and volume (much of [Hockney’s] early work was deliberately flat) has been seized on with a fresh eye and an individual sense of colour has resulted in some really astonishing, and aesthetically convincing canvases’ (M. Glazebrook, ibid., p. 6). Unique in style yet timeless in its subject matter, Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime speaks vividly to this assertion. It sets the stage for a practice that would place questions of sight and representation at its very core, funnelled through a fascination with art history and the natural world. It is also a visionary ode to the place where Hockney’s forebears had made profound discoveries about the depiction of light and colour: ‘there is enough material to work on for the rest of my days’, Signac had exclaimed. ‘Happiness—that is what I have just discovered’ (P. Signac, quoted in M. Ferretti-Bocquillon et al., Signac: 1863-1935, exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2001, p. 172). Hockney, too, was content: his spectacular image of daybreak captures an artist at the dawn of his powers, deeply in love with painting—and with life.

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