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signed with the artist's initials, inscribed and dated 'DH. Paris Nov 1973' (lower right)
coloured pencil on paper
25 1/2 x 19 5/8in. (64.8 x 49.7cm.)
Executed in 1973
M. Knoedler & Co, New York.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 5 May 1987, lot 227A.
Private Collection, Los Angeles.
Private Collection, Los Angeles.
Private Collection, London.
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York.
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2017).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Kasmin Gallery, David Hockney Works on Paper, 1961-2009, 2017-2018.
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

Celia is an intimate and tender portrait of David Hockney’s dear friend, frequent sitter and muse, Celia Birtwell. Executed in 1973, during his two-year sojourn in Paris, this work belongs to a period in which the artist devoted himself almost entirely to creating sophisticated, large-scale drawings of his family and friends, often depicting a single figure sitting on the same emerald green, armless chair. Here, Hockney presents us with a portrait of Celia dressed in a pale blue suit, sitting upright with her legs in her hands, facing candidly away from the viewer. Characterised by fine, swift lines and a delicate colour palette, the work captures the sitter’s graceful and elegant demeanour, a characteristic which manifests most prominently in her soft facial features, the wispy curls of her hair, and the gently rendered drapery of her clothing. ‘After all, she’s a very feminine woman, not a masculine woman, and a very sweet-natured, gentle person’, Hockney has said of his sitter (D. Hockney, quoted in M. Livingstone, ‘Hockney's People: Notes to the Plates’, in David Hockney: Faces 1966-1984, exh cat. Laband Art Gallery, Los Angeles 1987, unpaged). Created in single sessions lasting three to four hours, Hockney’s portraits of the early 1970s were characterised by their ability to capture the unique temperament and particularities of his subjects. Reflecting Celia's career as a fabric designer, this work pays close attention to her clothing, elegantly detailing the creases and folds of its fabric. It is a tribute to the sitter who would fascinate him for the next five decades, capturing her likeness with the poignant sensitivity that has come to define his portrait practice as a whole.

Although they met for the first time in Los Angeles in 1964, it was not until the aftermath of his break-up from his long-term partner Peter Schlesinger in 1971 that Hockney’s relationship with Celia Birtwell intensified. Along with her husband Raymond ‘Ossie’ Clark, a celebrated fashion designer, Celia was at the peak of London’s fashion industry during the Swinging Sixties, designing clothes and selling them from their boutique in Chelsea’s King’s Road. Celia was most famously represented in the artist’s large double portrait Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1971, Tate, London), a painting which depicts the couple in a reversal of conventional roles, with Celia’s forthright posture countering her husband’s languidly seated pose. Following the couple’s divorce, this portrait inaugurated what would become an ongoing series of portrait drawings and lithographs of Celia, a group of works which would draw attention to her soft, distinctively feminine qualities.

Indeed, it was whilst creating the portraits of Celia in Paris between 1973-75, posed in his signature green chair, that Hockney was able to really hone in on his drawing style, working in coloured crayon with a newfound degree of sophistication. In this way, Celia marks a significant early example of the academic refinement and deep personal intimacy that lie at the heart of Hockney’s celebrated portrait practice. Tender and captivating, and rendered in meticulous detail, it stands among the artist’s most intimate portrayals of his muse. ‘Portraits aren’t just made up of drawing, they are made up of other insights as well’, Hockney has remarked. ‘Celia is one of the few girls I knew really well. I’ve drawn her so many times and knowing her makes it always slightly different. I don’t bother about getting the likeness in her face because I know it so well. She has many faces and I think if you looked through all the drawings I’ve done of her, you’d see that they don’t look alike’ (D. Hockney, quoted in D. Hockney and E. Pillsbury, David Hockney: Travels with Pen, Pencil and Ink, London 1978, n.p.).

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