DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
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DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
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DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)

Felled Trees

Details
DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
Felled Trees
signed, titled and dated 'Felled Trees April 2008 David Hockney' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 2008.
Provenance
PaceWildenstein, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2009
Exhibited
Kunsthalle Würth, David Hockney: Just Nature, April-September 2009, p. 143, no. 34 (illustrated).
New York, PaceWildenstein, David Hockney: Paintings 2006-2009, October-December 2009, pp. 24-25 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it 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. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

“I want to use different styles, or a vocabulary of different styles, the same way a writer uses different words. I think it is part of a technique of painting to be able to adapt yourself to different styles…” - David Hockney

Widely known for his groundbreaking canvases that drew their power from the lustrous glamour of the Hollywood hills and the picturesque vistas of Los Angeles, David Hockney’s career has been highly influential to generations of artists. Still working today, he continues to investigate new modes and styles. Shifting focus in the early 2000s, he became enamored with landscape painting as he returned to the United Kingdom and fell in love with the countryside of his youth. Felled Trees is a stunning example of Hockney’s new approach to painting where English landscape traditions careened into his Pop-inflected California sentiments. In 2008, a year before this painting was realized, he moved into a new, larger studio that afforded him more freedom and allowed for continued exploration of monumental-scale pictures. “I felt twenty years younger. I stopped feeling frail and started feeling energetic,” he exclaimed, “I think it will make a difference to the work and to me being in a bigger space” (D. Hockney, quoted in M. Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, London, 2011, p. 76). The exhilaration and lust for innovation are palpable in Felled Trees as vivid colors glow with a neon splendor that elevates what might otherwise be taken for granted to new heights.

Painted in otherworldly tones, Felled Trees elevates the commonplace to something more surreal. Atop a bedding of deep purple undergrowth, a stack of brightly colored logs fills much of the foreground. The bold style in which Hockney renders this lumber detaches it from the rest of the scene, causing it to float visually atop the rest of the composition. The thick brushstrokes and energetic color create a stylistic amalgam that is as much related to the late work of Philip Guston as it might be to the dashing Fauves of the early twentieth century. About his predilection for mixing references and modes in service of a larger understanding of painting, Hockney has noted, “I want to use different styles, or a vocabulary of different styles, the same way a writer uses different words. I think it is part of a technique of painting to be able to adapt yourself to different styles… In a way I would like to paint a picture that was completely anonymous, that no one could tell was by me. Not in the style of another individual, but in the anonymous style of a school, like the Egyptian or byzantine style” (D. Hockney, quoted in P. Melia and U. Luchardt, David Hockney Paintings, London, 2009, p. 39).

“I began to notice it was very beautiful, a cultivated landscape... and very unspoiled. It’s still the same, amazingly the same, as it was fifty years ago.” - David Hockney

In Felled Trees, one sees this convergence in full effect as the more traditional blue and white of the cloudy sky above contrasts with the vibrant red of distant alien forests and the stand of shocking emerald trees in the midground. The latter oscillates between flatly applied paint and an illusionistic layer as the viewer notices and then looks past the thick blue outlines on each trunk and branch that Hockney weaves sinuously into the frame.

In 2002, Hockney left California after nearly forty years to return to his native England. There he was taken by the grandeur of the countryside and its relationship to the history of painting. Specially enthusiastic about J.M.W. Turner's and John Constable's works, he set about exploring the rural locale  in oil. The latter’s work was foremost on his mind after 2006 when the artist visited a retrospective at the Tate Britain which showcased a series of “six footers”, so-called for their grand scale and created by Constable to bring credibility to the oft-maligned landscape genre. Like his predecessor, Hockney highlights the sense of place inherent in these paintings and believes that it is the specific details observed through immersion in a location that makes for a more thrilling and contemplative canvas. When he returned to the UK in the early-2000s, he gained a new respect for the home he had left decades before. “I began to notice it was very beautiful, a cultivated landscape... and very unspoiled. It’s still the same, amazingly the same, as it was fifty years ago” (D Hockney, quoted by C. S. Sykes, David Hockney The Biography 1975-2012: A Pilgrim’s Progress, New York, 2014, p. 361). With this in mind, Felled Trees and works like Winter Timber (2009), establish a direct connection to the place where he worked, and harness lessons learned from painting en plein air to be able to translate the feeling of his surroundings into works on canvas more easily. The bright, unearthly palette used in Felled Trees also points to the artist’s continued appreciation of the work of Matisse. It sets up a striking conversation about the history of landscape painting and its relationship to evolving, experimental practices in painting. Capturing the same kind of visual poetry in his use of line and color as his Fauvist predecessor, Hockney reinvigorates a genre as only he can.

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