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Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4)

Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4)
signed with the artist’s initials and dated ‘D.H. 78.’ (lower right); signed and numbered '4-F (II) David Hockney.' (on the reverse)
coloured, pressed paper pulp
33 ¼ x 50 5⁄8in. (84.5 x 128.5cm.)
Executed in 1978
Tyler Graphics Ltd., New York.
Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Björn Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm.
Private Collection, Stockholm.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 25 June 2004, lot 203.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
N. Stangos, David Hockney paper pools, London 1980 (detail of another variant illustrated in colour on the front and back cover; studio view of another variant illustrated in colour, p. 34; illustrated in colour, p. 35; another variant illustrated in colour, p. 37).
K. E. Tyler, Tyler Graphics: Catalogue Raisonné, 1974-1985, Minneapolis 1987, p. 162, no. 239:DH4 (another variant illustrated in colour, p. 163).
H. W. Holzwarth (ed.), David Hockney: A Bigger Book, Cologne 2016 (another variant illustrated in colour, p. 123).
David Hockney, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne 2017, ill. 5 (another variant illustrated in colour, p. 34).
Madrid, Fundación Juan March, David Hockney, 1992, p. 107, no. 33 (another variant exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 66). This exhibition later travelled to Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts.
London, Offer Waterman, David Hockney, Early Drawings, 2015, pp. 114 and 126, no. 54 (another variant exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 115). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery.
London, Lightroom, David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away), 2023 (another variant exhibited digitally).
London, National Portrait Gallery, David Hockney: Drawing from Life, 2020, p. 202 (another variant exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 109).

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Alive with light, colour and texture, the present work depicts two of David Hockney’s most treasured subjects: the swimming pool, and his lover and muse Gregory Evans. Executed in 1978, it belongs to the artist’s celebrated Paper Pools series, a radical suite of works in which Hockney used compressed, pulped paper to capture the elusive qualities of water. Within the sequence of thirty-one images that make up the series, Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4) is the first of just five to feature a figure. Unlike subsequent examples—including A Large Diver (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)—which depict him underwater, here he leans on the side of the pool, his face upturned to the viewer. Shadows of deep indigo and fiery orange animate his form. The pool’s sun-kissed waters sparkle behind him, collapsing all sense of perspective. Aglow with the joys of summer and love, the image featured in Paul Schrader’s 1980 film American Gigolo, as well as on the cover of Michael Cunningham’s 1984 novel Golden States.

When asked in 2015 who he considered to be the love of his life, Hockney answered ‘Maybe Gregory’ (D. Hockney, quoted in S. Hattenstone, ‘David Hockney: “Just because I’m cheeky, doesn’t mean I’m not serious”’, The Guardian, 9 May 2015). Originally from Oklahoma, Evans was first introduced to the artist in 1971 as the boyfriend of the gallerist Nick Wilder. After the couple split in 1973, he and Hockney both found themselves living in Paris, where—over long afternoons in the Louvre and evenings at the Café de Flore—they grew close. As their relationship deepened, Evans began posing for drawings, later featuring in works including Model with Unfinished Self Portrait (1977), Gregory Swimming, Los Angeles, 31 March 1982 (1982) and Image of Gregory (1984-1985, Tate, London). In 1979, he became Hockney’s assistant, helping him to set up his home in the Hollywood Hills and travelling with him to China, Mexico and elsewhere. Though they ultimately parted ways in 1985, they remained friends and colleagues, with Evans later working as Hockney’s curator and business manager.

As Hockney prepared to move from London back to California in the summer of 1978, he and Evans stopped off in upstate New York. It was there that Kenneth Tyler—founder of the celebrated Tyler Graphics studio—introduced Hockney to the paper pulping method. With the West Coast in his sights once more, the artist seized Tyler’s pool as his subject. Hockney had fallen in love with play of light upon water on his first trip to Los Angeles in 1964, inspiring masterpieces including A Bigger Splash (1967, Tate, London) and Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972). With its tender image of Evans at the water’s edge, the present work inherits the language of Hockney’s 1960s poolside portraits: some of the most iconic paintings of this period. The interaction between the figure, the shifting water and the geometric bands of paving, in particular, owes much to works such as Sunbather (1966, Museum Ludwig, Cologne) and Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool (1966, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). Echoes of art history, too—of Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884) and Matisse’s La Piscine (1952)—flicker in its liquid depths.

The paper pulping technique, which Tyler had previously explored with Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland, was a revelation to Hockney. Metal moulds, created from the artist’s preparatory sketches and photographs, were placed over sheets of wet, newly-made paper, and filled with handmade coloured paper pulp. After removing the moulds, the artist embellished the surface with further layers of pulp and dye, using implements such as combs, toothbrushes and basters to create different textures. The work was then pressed and left to dry. Dressed in a rubber apron and boots, Hockney delighted in the watery nature of the technique, which he felt chimed perfectly with his subject. The intricacy of the process, furthermore, rendered each variation unique. With versions held in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4) was Hockney’s fourth image. Dissatisfied with the lack of figures in the series at the time, the artist recalls kneading together different shades of pink with his fingers, as though manipulating real flesh. The results are sensuous, tactile and physical, dancing—like the swimming pool itself—with light.

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