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The Gate

The Gate
signed, titled and dated 'David Hockney 2000 The Gate' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60 x 76 in. (152.4 x 193 cm.)
Painted in 2000.
Galerie Lelong, Paris
L.A. Louver, Los Angeles
Private collection, Italy
Private collection, New York
Anon. sale; Phillips, New York, 16 November 2016, lot 12
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner
D. Hockney, G. Evans and D. Graves, eds., Hockney's Pictures: The Definitive Retrospective, New York, 2004, p. 194 (illustrated).
L. Weschler, True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney, Berkeley, 2008, p. 114, fig. 24 (illustrated).
David Hockney/Nur Natur/Just Nature, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Würth, 2009, p. 61 (illustrated).
D. Hockney and H. W. Holzwarth, eds., David Hockney: A Bigger Book, Cologne, 2016, p. 308 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Lelong, David Hockney: Close and Far, November-December 2001, n.p. (illustrated).
Los Angeles, L.A. Louver, August 2002, August 2002.
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

“Painting nature during these years has accentuated Hockney’s appreciation of the preciousness of each moment and of life itself.” - Marco Livingstone (David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2012, p. 25).

One of the most prolific living painters, David Hockney has carved a singular niche for himself in the history of art by continually challenging the idea of figurative painting and reinventing his own energetic practice. Known for his sun-drenched views of mid-century California and his emotive portraits of friends and colleagues, the artist has always operated in a realm all his own. The Gate is a captivating example of Hockney’s stylistic shift in his 60s as he reassessed his surroundings and how they had worked their way into his vibrant oeuvre. Trading Hollywood swimming pools and portraiture of friends and lovers for the greenery of his garden and nearby fields, the artist immersed himself in the natural world as he ruminated upon ideas of place and time. “Painting nature during these years,” curator Marco Livingstone concluded, “has accentuated Hockney’s appreciation of the preciousness of each moment and of life itself” (M. Livingstone, “The Road Less Traveled,” in M. Livingstone and E. Devaney, eds., David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2012, p. 25). Drawing upon the historical painting precedents of the nineteenth-century European avant-garde, his career evolved once more to investigate the tradition of landscape pictures and to ruminate on ideas of belonging and place.

Positively bursting with vibrant color and expressive brushwork, The Gate departs from Hockney’s earlier spatial studies in favor of an all-encompassing scene that seems to close in around and envelop the viewer. Depicted from a singular perspective at eye level, a short path runs downhill toward the titular gate, its blue metalwork appearing wispy and delicate against the sprawl of nature beyond. To the right, a glimpse of green picket fencing is visible before giving way to a grand arcing tree trunk that explodes upward into the canopy. Its branches intermingle with those of another nearby, their sinuous tendrils vacillating between representational depictions and the gestural marks of Hockney’s Abstract Expressionist precursors. On the left, a short, red stone wall eases down toward a yellow railing, these architectural elements set the stage for a squat pink house with a roof constructed of primary tones. All of these elements are set against a preponderance of leaves, vines, branches, and stalks. The verdant backdrop filters the sun’s light and casts a tranquil shade upon the scene that suggests peaceful calm and comfortable cool. Hockney’s ability to construct a scene so charged with an all-encompassing feeling is a nod to both his studied respect for the Impressionists and their ilk as well as his careful consideration of minute details that add depth and richness to seemingly innocuous compositions.

Painted in 2000, The Gate is part of a pivotal series that the artist began after a summer sojourn back to his native England. Focusing on the area in and around the garden of his guest house in the Hollywood Hills, these canvases are harbingers of a seismic shift in Hockney’s practice at the turn of the millennium. Eschewing the presence of figures, the painter instead casts his eye toward the dappled light of his California locale while also alluding to the changing weather of his homeland. The meditative depictions of his domicile draw an immediate connection to the work of Claude Monet. The Impressionist’s myriad studies of his own garden at Giverny act as conceptual precursors to Hockney’s work. This association was first reestablished after the latter saw Monet’s retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995. He excitedly noted, “I came out of that exhibition and it made me look everywhere intensely. 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 Pilgrim’s Progress, New York 2014, p. 320). This creative fire was further stoked by his visit to the blockbuster exhibition Monet in the 20th Century at the Royal Academy in 1999. Focusing on the artist’s plein air painting and light studies that gave rise to new ideas of what painting could be, the emphasis on Monet’s later output and its undeniable influence on Modernist movements like Abstract Expressionism highlighted a creative bridge that Hockney eagerly crossed into new territories.

The Gate precedes a major departure in Hockney’s oeuvre, which saw the artist moving away from Los Angeles and settling in Yorkshire. Fully realized from 2002 onward, the convergence of his time on the West Coast with the grandeur of the English countryside has made for a revelatory body of work that is paradoxically rooted in two places at once. The vast blue of the Pacific and the coastal highways of California spill into green fields and garden paths, while the drama of the British sky and tangled growth of the Wolds creeps into the picturesque landscape of Hollywood. This hybridity is on full display in the present example and shows in great detail how the artist struggled to rectify his sense of belonging in two different locales. This mixture of spaces and styles is peak Hockney, even if the landscapes stray visually from his previous subject matter.

After his first solo exhibition in 1963, critic Gene Baro noted how Hockney used: “the conciseness of style as an element separable from content, as a thing applied ... Hockney’s style, as it develops, is a pastiche of styles. The paintings achieve a synthesis – of form, of feeling, of comment – by quotation and placement. In short, the subject of Hockney’s paintings is relationship among images, arbitrarily stated but sometimes needing to seem casual or accidental.” (G. Baro, quoted in C. Stephens and A. Wilson (eds.), exhibition catalogue, David Hockney, London, Tate Gallery, 2017, p. 50). Pulling simultaneously from the flatness of California Pop and the long tradition of English landscape painting, Hockney joined the two into a new amalgam that alluded to both and yet exists as its own treatise on the evolution of artistic conventions.

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