Specialist Picks: Contemporary Meets Modern

Pairings from our Editions team highlighting conversations in the form and refreshing ways to look at classic works today.

Pairings from our Editions team highlighting conversations in the form and refreshing ways to look at classic works today.

Left: David Hockney, My Window: iPhone drawing 'No. 281’, 23rd July 2010. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: After René Magritte, Untitled (Pear and Rose), from Les Moyens d'Existence (Livelihood) (K. & B. 20), 1968. Evening & Day Editions.


David Hockney & René Magritte

Louisa Earl, Associate Specialist/Cataloguer

They say that opposites attract – the introvert to the extrovert, the tall to the short, the practical to the conceptual. A single blooming rose, one from René Magritte, and one from David Hockney make the perfect pairing for any dichotomous couple. These classic still-lives flourish in visceral pleasure while teasing the imagination. Magritte’s realistic, finely etched petals, elevating into the outdoor rain and held within a tantalizing pear, tear the world of logic apart. Hockney’s soft cloudy stem, shying away from the hot rays streaming onto the windowsill, delicately balanced in a reflective crystal vase, pulls the viewer into a dreamlike haze. The cognitive dissonance between the images – Magritte’s fantastical subject steeped in naturalism, and Hockney’s ethereal flower grounded in the everyday – entice a myriad of conversations: are they real, or surreal?

Left: Banksy, Love is in the Air, 2003. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: Pablo Picasso, Colombe volant (à l'Arc-en-ciel) (Flying Dove in a Rainbow) (Bl. 712, M. 214), 1952. Evening & Day Editions London.

Banksy & Pablo Picasso

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond, Specialist, Head of Sale

“Make love not war!” they cry on the streets with slogans spray-painted on cardboard; arms aloft, and mouths open in chant and song. It’s flower power and the promise of a new dawn; it’s a carnation placed in a rifle and a lone protester in Tiananmen Square. Picasso gives us the covenant of the rainbow and the promise of peace after the flood and calm after the storm, but at what price? The world as it was known swept away save the chosen few. Banksy still rides the wave, a masked figure in the eye of the hurricane, hurling a flowerbomb at an unseen, universal oppressor. “Love is in the air,” he declares, preparing to launch his missile, hoping to take flight as a soaring dove.

Left: Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), 2015. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: Wayne Thiebaud, Candy Counter, from Seven Still Lifes and a Rabbit, 1970. Evening & Day Editions London.

Jeff Koons & Wayne Thiebaud

Anne Schneider-Wilson, Senior Specialist

Objects of desire – do not touch!

In Wayne Thiebaud’s Candy Counter, the array of sweets lures us in and invites us to press our noses against the glass top, trying to decide which sugar high to choose – or perhaps more than one; it has been a tough 18 months after all!

Jeff Koons is no different – Balloon Dog (Yellow), with it’s the shiny surface and ambiguous material makes it so tempting to reach out a hand and feel: Is it heavy and cold or is it squishy and playful? Don’t touch! You will leave fingerprints and regret it forever!

Left, Etel AdnanL'Apocalypse Arabe (The Arab Apocalypse), 2020. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: Sonia Delaunay, Compositions, couleurs, idées (Compositions Colours Ideas), circa 1930. Evening & Day Editions London.

Etel Adnan & Sonia Delaunay

Grace Brown, Administrator

Color is a central concern for both Sonia Delaunay and Etel Adnan, but the effects produced by their works are radically different. Sonia Delaunay’s Compositions, couleurs, idées exemplifies the artist’s long-standing fascination with how contrasting colors can create depth, movement and rhythm. Delaunay, along with her husband Robert, is celebrated for developing the style termed Simultanism, born of the belief that the vibrancy and intensity of colors depend on surrounding juxtapositions. Delaunay spent her career experimenting with color contrasts, here producing 40 compositions of pulsating abstract patterns. The results are a dazzling, kaleidoscopic collection of pochoir prints, full of vibrancy and dynamism. I’d never get bored leafing through this portfolio.

In contrast, the harmonious color fields of Etel Adnan’s L'Apocalypse Arabe create a stillness and serenity that is no less powerful. Accompanying Adnan’s 88-page book of poems based on the Lebanese civil war, the joyous pastel tones of this etching seem at odds with the subject of her writing – a division that pervaded much of her creative output. Despite the title, Adnan’s etching is tranquil and intimate. Incidentally, through the radical simplification of the landscape depicted, the flat geometric composition becomes a calming antidote to one of Delaunay’s oscillating abstract patterns.

Left: Miles Aldridge, Carousel, 2013. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: Pablo Picasso, Barbu fantasmant, femmes, homme, et homme grec au corps de femme (Reclining Male Nude and Five Embracing Nudes, One a Hermaphrodite), plate 122 from Séries 156 (Bl. 1977, Ba. 1986), 1971. Evening & Day Editions London.

Miles Aldridge & Pablo Picasso

Cary Leibowitz, Worldwide Co-Head of Editions

Gosh darn that Pablo Picasso.

Still out-out-cooling the cool.

OK so you draw.

We know that.

What we love is that what comes into his head and manifests into an (official) etching that to the lazy passerby can be harmlessly classical and boring. Not again! Hermaphrodites and middle-aged scrotums. A nudist colony field trip goes to a German cabaret... So beautifully drawn and etched for eternity. Magical lines of perfection. And who’s going to say it’s not erotic (I dare u)!

Miles Aldridge dares us too. These ‘beautiful pictures’ - so slick and shiny and nothing and everything. More tough than sweet but still we are suckers for looking and looking again. Is anything beautiful besides the photography, lighting, make-up, props and composition? Perfectly made up models feeling so virginal and pure compared with hermaphroditism and saggy middle-aged scrotums.


Left: Harland Miller, In Shadows I Boogie, 2019. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: Henri Matisse, La Danse (The Dance) (D. 247), 1935-36. Evening & Day Editions.


Harland Miller & Henri Matisse

Kelly Troester, Worldwide Co-Head of Editions

“[Dance] – It’s the best thing in the world. I’m not talking about the kind of excitement that made me dance the whole night through… I’m talking about the eternal dance that’s rejuvenated humanity down the ages; it makes happiness more intense, disasters more bearable, and saves us from sadness and despair.” —Henri Matisse

The comparative connection is pretty obvious in their titles, colors and abstracted imagery with Pop Art vibes. They create movement differently though – Matisse decorates with flat planes of color and figures/limbs stretching off the edges contrasted by Miller’s key text to guide his intentions. Matisse’s expressionistic dancers flow among the shadows of the arches (and ultimately larger than life in the elevated vaulted wall mural of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia) while Miller’s Josef Albers-influenced abstraction shimmies around the lyrical title which leads us onto the floor. Hand-in-hand, the pair – 84 years apart – move a little faster and look damn great together!

Left: David HockneyHouse Doodle (Gemini G.E.L. 1189, M.C.A.T. 255), 1984. Evening & Day Editions London. Right: Pablo PicassoOdalisque au collier de chien (Odalisque with a Dog Collar), plate 39 from Séries 156 (Bl. 1894, Ba. 1900), 1970. Evening & Day Editions London. 

David Hockney & Pablo Picasso

Robert Kennan, Head of Editions, Europe

Paul Klee said drawing is a line for going a walk – Hockney’s doodle takes us on a mid-career meander; his beguiling line creating a Californian dream of friends, lovers, a pool, no pooch, but a cat and a rat! Picasso’s walk is one of his last, after Series 156 the needle would touch copper no longer. He used the series as a visual diary, reflecting upon his life, with a new work almost daily – 21st April, 1971: “I dreamt of her again last night.”





Discover More from Editions >


Recommended Reading

The Prompt: Andy Warhol >

Mirror Images: Inner Psyches Revealed in the Work of Francis Bacon >