The David Hockney studio has kindly confirmed the authenticity of the present work.
Painted in 1963, David Hockney's The Salesman is a transitional painting, reflecting the many combined influences that flavoured his early work. It was in 1963 that so much of Hockney's life changed: he holidayed in Egypt, he moved to Los Angeles, and he was also gaining increasing recognition, both in terms of prizes and exhibitions, as well as financial remuneration. With the kudos that these various changes afforded him, his art rapidly matured. The influences that had shaped his style in recent years - Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet and ancient Egyptian art - were coming together in a strong fusion. In The Salesman, these various elements are manipulated to create various effects. The lingering interest in the Informel, which Hockney would largely renounce after his arrival in the United States, remains in the collage curtain at the back. This creates an interesting play of textures and colour, with the eponymous main character of the work appearing almost insubstantial by contrast. This appears to be a strangely potent reflection of the main figure's existence with his long Mac and sandwich board, hinting that he is far from being a man of substance. Hockney's early work, which was partly inspired by the scrawled graffiti in public toilets like those in the Earl's Court Underground station, provided fertile ground for Dubuffet's influence. By mixing these styles, and sometimes echoing the graffiti's subject matter, Hockney brought an anxious and anonymous art form into the open.
The influence of Picasso can be seen, along with Dubuffet's, in the stylised figuration at play in the work. However, the Egyptian influence is also potent. The salesman appears in profile, a trait common to all Egyptian art. Although Egyptian artists and their styles were anonymous and unspecific, their portraiture was infused with personality and humanity. Likewise, the salesman, a seemingly anonymous character who seems to fade in comparison to his background, is nonetheless lent a personality and dignity by his profile view. He appears to be engaged in an hieratic process, fully absorbed by the ritual of his own life. The insubstantiality of the salesman relative to his background itself has a pertinence when combined with the influence of Egyptian art, which was so funerary in nature. Thus, the salesman himself appears commemorated, rendered substantial by Hockney yet recorded in a way that emphasises the transitory nature of his trade, and hence of his existence.
John Kasmin, Hockney's then dealer and friend, recently said of The Salesman that this, one of his favourite works, was a gift from him to the architects Ahrends, Burton and Koralek to thank them for designing his Bond Street gallery.