David Hockney

Tanya Baxter Contemporary
Nov 20, 2018 5:04PM

Limited Editions are a more accessible medium for collectors looking to invest in the most expensive living artist.

iPad drawing, Untitled 516, from 'A Bigger Book'

iPad drawing, Untitled 329, from 'A Bigger Book'

David Hockney has made history with the sale of 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) for $90.3 million, which beat out Jeff Koons earlier record of $58.4 million. 'Portrait of an Artists (Pool with Two Figures) was snapped up after 9 minutes of bidding at Christie's New York last week.

'A Bigger Book', Taschen's sumo sized David Hockney monograph takes stock of over 60 years of the artist's work; from his teenage days at the Bradford School of Art, through his breakthrough in 1960s swinging London, life by Los Angeles pools in the 1970s, up to his recent extensive series of portraits, iPad drawings, and Yorkshire landscapes.

Hockney first started drawing on his iPhone and iPad in 2008, and since then he says "I draw flowers every day on my iPhone, and send them to myu friends, so they get fresh flowers every morning."

Flowers were a frequent subject. His partner, John Fitzherbert, would buy new bouquet's every day - roses, lilies, lilacs - and often Hockney would sketch them. Like many people, Hockney believes that drawings, like songs, will always be with us: it is only the means of making and delivering them that they will change.

The Blue Guitar - Etching with aquatint, 1976-77, 52.4 x 45.7 cm

Figures with Still Life - from 'The Blue Guitar', etching and aquatint, 52.4 x 454

Hockney first encountered Picasso's work on a visit to London as an art student in 1954, and when an important Picasso show was mounted at the Tate in 1960, Hockney visited the exhibition 8 times. When Picasso died in 1973 Hockney was invited to contribute to the portfolio 'Homage to Picasso.' Deciding to make an etching he went to the studio of Aldo Crommelynck, Picasso's master print, in Paris. It was under Crommelynck's tutelage that Hockney learnt about the sugar lift aquatint, a method used extensively by Picasso, as well as colour etching techniques which he would later use in The Blue Guitar series to great effect.

Having long intended to experiment with Cubism, it was the discovery in 1976 of a poem inspired by Picasso's painting 'The Old Guitarist' (1930) by the American poet Wallace Stevens which would lead to Hockney's great homage to the Spanish master's art, The Blue Guitar.

"I read Wallace Steven's poem in the summer of 1976. The etchings themselves were not conceived as literal illustrations of the poem but as in interpretation of its themes in visual terms. Like the poem, they are about transformations within art as well as the relation between reality and the imagination, so these are pictures and different styles of representation juxtaposed and reflected and dissolved within the same frame." Artist's statement on dust jacket of the catalogue documenting the publication of The Blue Guitar portfolio of etchings, Petersburg Press, London and New York, 1977.

The dialogue with the language of cubism that Hockney began in 'The Blue Guitar' informed much of his work throughout the 1980's.

Celia, 8365 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, 1973, lithograph, edition of 46, 121 x 80

'Celia, 8365, Melrose Avenue', celebrates Hockney's close relationship with designer Celia Birtwell. Celia first met Hockney in Los Angeles in 1964. She is most famously represented in Hockney's large double portrait of 'Mr. and Mr.s Clark and Percy.' With her husban Ossie Clark, she was at the top of the fashion industry in London in the swinging sixties. Clark designed clothes using Birtwell's textile designs, and sold them from the shop Quorum in Chelsea's King's Road.

Hockney's portraits of Celia acknowledge her sensuality without being overtly sexual. The artist felt that her portraits, particularly of this period, were very much a reflection of her personality rather than just of his feelings towards her: "she's a very feminine woman, not a masculine woman, and a very sweet-natured, gentle person" (quoted in Marco Livingstone, 'Hockney's People: Notes to the Plates', David Hockney: Faces 1966-1984.) Celia was a friend of Hockney's companion Peter Schlesinger, and following the break-up of Hockney and Schlesinger in 1971, the artist's portrait of Celia take on an increased intimacy

Tanya Baxter Contemporary