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)

Early Blossom, Woldgate

Details
DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
Early Blossom, Woldgate
signed, titled and dated 'Early Blossom Woldgate 2009 David Hockney' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
36 x 72 in. (91.4 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted in 2009.
Provenance
PaceWildenstein, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2009
Literature
D. Hockney and H.W. Holzwarth, eds., David Hockney: A Bigger Book, Cologne, 2016, p. 607 (illustrated).
Exhibited
New York, PaceWildenstein, David Hockney: Paintings 2006-2009, October-December 2009, pp. 48-49 (illustrated).
London, Lightroom, King's Cross, David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller and Further Away), February-October 2023 (digital version exhibited).
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

“The paintings [Hockney] has made of the Wolds between 2005 and the end of 2008 are in purely technical terms—but also in their observational accuracy and evocation of space—the most commanding he has ever made.” - Marco Livingstone

David Hockney is one of the world’ most respected living painters, and generations of artists and patrons have been compelled by his singular depiction of the world around him. Characters and friends, detached vistas, and sublime swimming pools, all become vibrant with rippling energy under his steady hand. A particularly exhilarating example of his late-career shift into landscape, Early Blossom, Woldgate melds expressive brushwork with a nuanced observation on landscape painting and ideas of place. Part of a substantial series that materialized as the artist returned to his native Britain at the turn of the twenty-first century, it is celebrated not only for its compositional strength but also its virtuosic command of oil. Curator Marco Livingstone states, “The paintings [Hockney] has made of the Wolds between 2005 and the end of 2008 are in purely technical terms—but also in their observational accuracy and evocation of space—the most commanding he has ever made” (M. Livingstone, in David Hockney / Nur Natur / Just Nature, exh. cat., Schwäbisch Hall, Kunsthalle Würth, 2009, p. 188). Such a statement is truly bold given Hockney’s prodigious output and his obvious influence, but it is not unwarranted as one sees the painter’s hand become freer and his gestures more lucid as the energy of the English countryside permeates the painting’s surface.

An immersive scene of pastoral delight, Early Blossom, Woldgate borrows stylistically from historical precedents but is unabashedly Hockney. Extending from the lower right toward the horizon in a lazy curve, a reddish-orange country lane meanders through a lush landscape. The dark indentations of tire tracks from the various travelers that have passed by are rendered in grayish blue, connecting to the light hues of the cloudy sky overhead. On the right side of the road, tall shrubs and flowering trees wave in the breeze, their green leaves and cream-colored petals tossed in the Yorkshire air. On the left side, a row of flowers peer through thick-bladed grass and follow the path toward distant trees and rolling fields. All of the colors are bright and punchy, their hues teetering between natural splendor and Expressionist exaggeration. At the core though, Hockney is responding to his surroundings as he paints, taking in the real movement and color around him. “The light changes so quickly up here,” Hockney has remarked, “so you have to choose how you want to depict it… Outdoors, especially in northern Europe, the scene is constantly changing because the light conditions seldom stay the same for long. The sun moves, clouds move over the sky” (D. Hockney, quoted by M. Gayford, “David Hockney: The Technology of Art,” in M. Livingstone & E. Devaney, eds., David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, exh. cat. Royal Academy, London 2012, p. 62).

Aside from a shift in color, the brushwork in these landscapes is faster and more active than Hockney’s earlier work, and the airless quality of his California paintings has been traded for humming natural energy. In particular, the blades of grass are reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh’s agrarian canvases where simple landscapes were infused with a psychological richness. Hockney’s own knack for discovering and promoting minute details in the scene before him further connects the artist to the late Dutch painter, whose ability to restrain his emotive brushwork only served to further charge his compositions.

As an artist, Hockney has been primarily touted for his painting. However, his collages of Polaroid and traditional prints also play an important role in the conversation of his career. Using the camera as a way of looking at the world, and the collage as a means of altering our perception of that view, Hockney plays upon something vital to an understanding of his practice. In his later works, he looks back to the history of landscape painting and the documentary nature of some artists who sought to depict new wilderness for the viewers back home. This urge was later amplified with the advent of photography, and of this connection Hockney explains, “Artists thought the optical projection of nature was verisimilitude, which is what they were aiming for, but in the twenty-first century, I know that is not verisimilitude. Once you know that, when you go out to paint you’ve got something else to do. I do not think the world looks like photographs. I think it looks a lot more glorious than that” (D. Hockney, quoted in David Hockney, exh. cat., London, Tate Britain, 2017-18, p. 172). It has never been about accurate portrayals of physical spaces for Hockney. Instead, he has mastered the ability to harness a feeling, an atmosphere that permeates the sense of a place. The people, trees, and buildings that populate his paintings exist within this realm and contribute to the immersive experience. By lowering the eye line to his own and centering the focus, he presents the work much as a photographer would and invites you to step into the scene in his place.

“The light changes so quickly up here so you have to choose how you want to depict it… Outdoors, especially in northern Europe, the scene is constantly changing because the light conditions seldom stay the same for long. The sun moves, clouds move over the sky.” - David Hockney

Widely acclaimed for his figurative work, works like Early Blossom, Woldgate are noticeably bereft of human subjects. Instead, they seem to include the viewer by virtue of leading lines and a low horizon. What Hockney sees is translated to canvas and the audience stands next to him as he paints. Writer and critic Lawrence Weschler recalled a conversation with the artist, “'I call these my figure paintings,’ Hockney says to me one day, and I rise warily to the bait: But, David, there are no figures in them. ‘You,’ he says a merry gleam in his eye, ‘are the figure’" (L. Weschler, “David Hockney: Painting again in East Yorkshire,” in David Hockney: Recent Paintings, exh. cat., Pace Wildenstein, New York, 2009, p. 11). Knowing that the painting is made to be observed like a window into another place allows for a deeper understanding of Hockney’s process and the catalyst for these landscapes. Painting en plein air, the artist reacts with his brush and oil to the light and color around him, translating not only what he sees at the moment but what he feels as well. Like a surreal slice of panorama, the horizontal canvas of Early Blossom, Woldgate lets the viewer enter into the fields and farm roads of Yorkshire, England.

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