David Hockney: Prints & Multiples

10/20/2022     Prints & Multiples

David Hockney, CELIA WITH GREEN HAT, Color lithograph, 1984. Lot 66. Auction Oct 26.




NEW YORK, NY -- David Hockney, one of the most celebrated and influential artists of the 20th Century, is well-known for his drawings, paintings, prints and photographs (he also made set designs). A brilliant draftsman, Hockney studied as a teenager at Bradford School of Art in his hometown and then at the Royal College of Art in London in the early 1960s. Despite the focus on abstraction at the time, Hockney remained a figurative artist while working in a wide range of mediums and exploring new technologies.

For Hockney, Los Angeles was love at first sight – the sunlight, beauty, vibrant colors, sense of freedom and endless possibilities. The artist moved there in 1964 and lived in Los Angeles for much of his life. Best known for sun-drenched images of swimming pools, Hockney has captured the essence of the city like no other artist, and his artwork is highly sought-after.

Printmaking plays a central role in Hockney’s art. The twelve prints included in Doyle's October 26 Prints & Multiples auction are fine examples that span his career, working collaboratively with celebrated printers and workshops and experimenting on his own. These prints highlight the printmaking techniques he embraced and feature Hockney's most famous muses. They also illustrate the enduring influence of Picasso on Hockney's work. Hockney began drawing inspiration from Picasso as far back as 1960 when he was 23 and attended the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London.

Picture of a Simple Traditional Nude Drawing (lot 58) is an early color lithograph from Hockney’s 1965 A Hollywood Collection. Hockney created an "instant art collection" of a series – six color lithographs of different subjects and styles with illusionistic-appropriate frames – prepackaged and ready to go. Hockney made the prints at Kenneth Tyler's just-opened print-publisher shop, Gemini Ltd., on Melrose Avenue, basing the frames on what he saw in the store window. The style of this work reflects the influence of Picasso in its sculptural, classical depiction of a nude subject. Picasso, too, favored the lithograph print medium (see lot 142 and lot 143). This process appealed to many artists as they could use their painting and drawing tools to achieve similar effects in lithography. The process is quite technical, so artists usually collaborated with master printers such as Tyler, one of the most admired and influential printer/publishers of the 20th century.

As with lithography, the “drawing” nature and linearity of etching attracted Hockney. His 1972 work Panama Hat (lot 61) depicts the hat, jacket and pipe of Henry Geldzahler, the legendary New York art critic and curator at the Met. Many artists whom Geldzahler championed eventually used him as a subject, including Andy Warhol. Hockney met Geldzahler through Warhol in 1963, eventually becoming close friends through their shared love of music, painting, and a keen sense of humor. Both men were also openly gay, a daunting prospect ahead of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s. Whereas Hockney’s numerous other portraits of Geldzahler were traditional, this unconventional “still life” portrait depicting Geldzahler’s signature accouterments reflects his powerful presence – felt even when Geldzahler is not physically present.

Of Hockney's many muses, none were perhaps more famous than British textile designer Celia Birtwell. Hockney's portraits of Birtwell are almost as recognizable as his swimming pools. His images of his close friend – including Celia–Adjusting her Eyelash (lot 62) and Celia Pondering (lot 63) – capture private moments of contemplation, depicting her in profile with fine, delicate, essential lines. Hockney employs soft shading, conveying the subtleties of texture and tone by varying the thickness and type of line.

Hockney depicts Celia quite differently in Celia with Green Hat (lot 66), from 1984, one of 29 prints from his Moving Focus series. His bold use of turquoise blue and green reflect the influence of LA and evoke his swimming pool works, such as the iconic 1980 color lithograph Pool Made with Paper and Blue Ink (lot 68). Also from Moving Focus, Portrait of Mother I (lot 67) depicts another favorite Hockney muse, his mother Laura, who supported his dream of being an artist.

The Moving Focus series illustrates Hockney’s obsession with depicting space and how we see things; indeed, the artist has called himself a “space freak.” The flattened space and close-up viewpoint of these works evoke not only Picasso but also the profound influence of Asian art. Hockney often speaks of his fascination with traditional Asian art in that it did not use linear perspective to create the illusion of real space from a fixed viewpoint as the European tradition since the Renaissance.

Concerning photography, Hockney felt the split-second viewpoint limited the medium and did not accurately represent how we see. Even so, he recognized the value of photography and, in the early 1980s, began creating photo-based works that he called “joiners”, first with grids of photographs that together represented a single image. In 1982, Hockney made his first photo collage. He used numerous Polaroid or 35 mm photographs of a scene shot from different perspectives to create an almost Cubist vision of reality. Hockney arranged the collection of images and glued them together on a backing, showing different viewpoints simultaneously and within the same space to conjure their three-dimensional form. At the same time, the process emphasized the two-dimensional flatness of photo paper rather than truly creating the illusion of depth – resulting in works that appear fragmented or abstracted. This project again reflects Hockney's obsession with space and how we perceive it, as well as Picasso's influence, who founded the Cubist art movement along with George Braque. Gregory in Kyoto from 1983 (lot 64) is one of several photo collages Hockney made while traveling in Japan. The work depicts Gregory Evans. He was the artist’s lover and studio assistant for 10 years in the 1970s. Later, he served as Hockney's manager, trusted advisor and a frequent model of Hockney’s over the years.

Hockney has always been fascinated by technology in art, resulting in recent works created using the Brush app to paint on an iPad. Hockney made several prints with office copy machines he called his "Home Made" prints before experimenting in the early 90s with laser printers and a high-tech still video camera. The camera intensifies the vibrancy of certain colors and prints on the machines. He uses laser prints as part of the artistic process of painting, like a “sketch,” and as finished artworks such as Painted Environment I from 1993 (lot 69). Hockney made this work from 16 color laser-printed photographs of his paintings and easel, which, like the photo collages, are mounted together on board and illustrate Hockney’s fascination with dimensions and space. Though Hockney enjoyed and appreciated working collaboratively with printers and publishers, he was thrilled to use photography and new technology to quickly and easily create prints on his own.

Prints & Multiples

Auction Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 11am
Exhibition Oct 22 - 24

Featured in the October 26 auction are 12 works by David Hockney.