David Hockney’s California Masterpiece: A Glimpse into the Artistic Journey

In a captivating revelation, Christie’s announces the inclusion of David Hockney’s masterpiece, California (1965), as the pinnacle of the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale scheduled for 7 March.

This article delves into the historical significance of this iconic painting, its journey through time, and the profound impact it holds within the realm of art.

The Timeless Charm: California’s Legacy Unveiled

California, estimated to fetch around £16,000,000, has remained within the confines of a European private collection since 1968.

This masterpiece, a gem among Hockney’s early swimming pool paintings, has been shielded from public view for over four decades. The upcoming auction at Christie’s provides art enthusiasts with a rare opportunity to witness the resurgence of this artistic treasure.

A Pioneering Pool Painting: Hockney’s Early Exploration

Acquired by the current owner in 1968, California made its public debut in London on 25 January. The painting’s touring exhibition schedule encompasses Paris from 3 to 8 February and New York from 15 to 19 February, before being showcased in London at Christie’s global headquarters on King Street from 1 to 7 March.

This masterpiece holds a distinctive position within Hockney’s oeuvre, standing as the largest and finest creation among his early pool paintings, conceived after his inaugural visit to Los Angeles in 1964.

Art historians Paul Melia and Ulrich Luckhardt have highlighted the exceptional nature of California within Hockney’s body of work.

They note that Hockney himself considers it one of his most crucial pool paintings. This sentiment is echoed by Katharine Arnold, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Europe, who remarks on the iconic status of Hockney’s pool paintings in contemporary art history.

A Journey Through Light and Water: Hockney’s Artistic Mastery

Joseph Braka, Junior Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art, London, draws attention to the grandeur of California. Executed with dynamic lines and vibrant colours, the painting captures the exhilaration of a young Englishman immersed in the social revolution sweeping the West Coast of America.

David Hockney's California Masterpiece: A Glimpse into the Artistic Journey

Through tangled lines and cells, characteristic of Hockney’s early style, the artist skillfully conveys the elusive properties of water and light.

California emerges as a pivotal piece in Hockney’s early exploration of the swimming pool motif. Its depiction of moving water lays the groundwork for techniques explored in subsequent masterpieces like A Bigger Splash (1967) and Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972).

The inclusion of figures in California foreshadows Hockney’s later works featuring sensuous male nudes.

Beyond Boundaries: California’s Impact on Hockney’s Retrospective

The significance of California to Hockney’s oeuvre is evident in his 1988 retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Unable to include the original, Hockney created a copy, now part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The stylised vocabulary of tangled lines and cells in California remains distinctive of Hockney’s early period, preceding his shift towards naturalism in later years.

Facing the challenge of portraying the ever-changing properties of water and light, Hockney embarked on a journey that defined his practice. California stands as a testament to his early forays into themes of vision and perception.

The stylised vocabulary of tangled lines and cells is particularly distinctive of this early period, predating the artist’s turn towards naturalism and his landmark double portraits made during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In conclusion, California transcends being a mere painting; it is a portal into Hockney’s evolving artistic brilliance. As it takes centre stage at Christie’s London Evening Sale, the masterpiece invites art connoisseurs to witness the intersection of history, creativity, and Hockney’s unparalleled vision.

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