DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A FRENCH CONNOISSEUR
DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)

Swimming Pool Ladder

Details
DAVID HOCKNEY (B. 1937)
Swimming Pool Ladder
signed with the artist's initials and dated ‘DH. 67’ (lower right)
coloured pencil and graphite on paper
17 x 13 7⁄8in. (43.2 x 35.4cm.)
Executed in 1967
Provenance
Jean Léger Collection, Paris (acquired directly from the artist).
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above circa 1983).
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above circa 1992).
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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

The blue of David Hockney’s Swimming Pool Ladder is a brilliant, luminous blue: the blue of sultry summer evenings, warm breezes, azure skies and indulgent cool waters. It is the blue of Hockney’s swimming pools, the defining image of his oeuvre. Created in 1967, the same year as his iconic A Bigger Splash (Tate, London), the present work forms part of the artist’s almost obsessive exploration of water’s unpredictable ebb and flow. Hockney first became interested in swimming pools after he moved to Los Angeles in 1963: California, with all its glorious sunshine and heady optimism, enchanted the young artist. Growing up surrounded by post-war deprivation made the contrast between England and the United States all the more striking. California was ‘a place of fantasy’ for Hockney, with the swimming pool as the symbolic embodiment of his new lifestyle (A. Wilson quoted in A. Sooke, ‘The bewitching allure of Hockney’s swimming pools’, BBC, 13 February 2017).

Hockney painted his first pool into the background of the 1964 painting California Art Collector. By the time he created Swimming Pool Ladder three years later, pools had moved from scene setting to the central preoccupation of his oeuvre, functioning as both a symbolic subject and a technical conundrum which he sought to overcome: how exactly, Hockney wondered, could one represent water graphically? As he noted, ‘Water in a swimming pool is different from, say, water in a river, which is mostly a reflection because the water isn’t clear. A swimming pool has clarity. The water is transparent and drawing transparency is an interesting graphic problem’ (D. Hockney, quoted in C. Simon Sykes, Hockney: The Biography. London 2011, p. 187). Working in coloured pencil, here Hockney meticulously observes the mercurial effects of light moving across the pool. The resulting work suggests a crystalline vision of the artist’s new home, an infinite boundless hope found in the dance of light upon water and the ever-changing lap of the swimming pool’s surface.

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Christie’s is thrilled to present a collection of works on paper by David Hockney which celebrate the artist’s superb draughtsmanship. Despite his enthusiastic embrace of painting, photography and even the iPad screen, drawing has always been and remains a fundamental part of his practice. Born in Bradford in 1937, Hockney was encouraged from a young age to pursue his interest in art, and at sixteen he entered the Bradford School of Art, where the curriculum focused on observation drawing. ‘I was at art school in England when they abandoned drawing, they abandoned teaching it, which I thought was the worst thing of all,’ he recalled. ‘Frankly, I always blamed it on Frank Stella who said that you could have painting without drawing’ (D. Hockney quoted in D. D’Arcy, ‘David Hockney’s Paintings Are World Renowned, But He Never Lost His Desire to Draw’, Observer, 4 October 2020).

In 1966, four years after graduating from the Royal College of Art, Hockney was commissioned to work on a revival of Ubu Roi at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was his first foray into theatrical design. The inscription in his contemporaneous drawing Writing Desk (lot 669) marks the commission; the work shows the plans for a portable writing desk with notes on its material and decoration. That same year Hockney moved permanently to California, a place he had first visited in 1964 and with which he had immediately fallen in love. The geometric horizontality of Los Angeles dramatically transformed the young artist’s visual aesthetic and of his compositions’ newfound flatness, Hockney noted, ‘Buildings, roads, sidewalks were all straight lines, because that’s what L.A. looks like in the flatlands: long straight roads, right angles, cubes’ (D. Hockney, quoted in David Hockney, exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles 1988, p. 85). Intoxicated by sunlight and optimism, he began to paint his new home, and the seemingly infinite number of swimming pools that dotted the cityscape proved the perfect motif for an artist so strongly affected by the Golden State. In drawings such as Swimming Pool Ladder (1967, lot 666), and the two works both entitled Poolside (lots 667 and 668) which date to 1974, Hockney captures not only the look of the pool but the joie de vivre it represents.

In other respects, the drawings speak to the larger community in which Hockney was enmeshed during this period. Created in 1973, the gossamer Gold (lot 670) is inscribed 'Jean Léger 27 Rue de Seine Paris VIe’. Léger, a young designer for Helena Rubinstein, met Hockney in London in 1967, and was the original owner of all the works in the present collection. The Rue de Seine address of the inscription refers to the apartment that Léger shared with his partner Alexis Vidal, where Hockney often stayed when visiting Paris.

What unites all these works—indeed, all the artist’s prolific practice—is his admiration and ambition for drawing as a medium. ‘What does the world look like?’ Hockney’s practice seems to ask. ‘I don’t think it looks like photographs,’ he has said. ‘You have to find out yourself, you have to draw it’ (D. Hockney, ‘“I love drawing”: David Hockney on iPad painting and finding joy in spring’, Royal Academy, 18 May 2021). Known for carrying a sketchbook wherever he goes, for Hockney, drawing has always been entwined with everything he does: it not only underpins all his art but also serves as a record for a life lived.

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