Iris with Evian Bottle

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  • Provenance

    Annely Juda Fine Art, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1997

  • Exhibited

    London, Annely Juda Fine Art, David Hockney: Flowers, Faces and Spaces, May 1 - July 19, 1997, n.p. (illustrated in the artist's studio; installation view illustrated; illustrated)
    Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, The Flower as Image, September 10, 2004 - January 16, 2005, no. 37, pp. 9, 93 (illustrated, p. 8); then traveled as Riehen/Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Blumenmythos, Van Gogh bis Jeff Koons / Flower Myth, Vincent van Gogh to Jeff Koons, February 27 - May 22, 2005, no. 64, p. 195 (illustrated, p. 159)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “You begin to see how many choices you can make in even these simple things right in front of you. How exciting they are.” –David Hockney

    With its exuberant palette and lively composition, Iris with Evian Bottle, 1996, is a prime example of David Hockney’s innovations in still life painting. Its vibrant forms demonstrate his extraordinary creativity and sustained engagement with the history of art. This painting has remained in the same private collection since it was purchased from Hockney’s memorable Flowers, Faces and Spaces exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art in 1997. In 2004, it was featured in The Flower as Image, a major group show at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, which then traveled to Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, that explored the significance of floral subjects in modern art. Iris with Evian Bottle epitomizes Hockney’s commitment to working from observation as well as his painterly invention, a creative balance between representation and abstraction that has positioned him among the most renowned painters working today.

    Throughout his career, Hockney has turned to traditional artistic subjects—landscapes, interiors, portraits, figure studies, and still lifes—to reimagine and renew his decidedly contemporary practice. Still life has always been an important focus for Hockney, from his Pop works of the 1960s, to the precise realism of his paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, his intriguing photocollages and colorful abstractions from the 1980s and 1990s, and the digital works he made on iPhones and iPads in the 2000s. Still life has allowed him to continually refresh his vision. “I think every artist who deals with the visible world must come back to them”, he has said. “You begin to see how many choices you can make in even these simple things right in front of you. How exciting they are” (David Hockney, quoted in Piet de Jonge, “Interview with David Hockney” in David Hockney: Paintings and Photographs of Paintings, exh. cat., Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1995, p. 34).

    In 1996, Hockney embarked on a compelling series of still life paintings after attending a Johannes Vermeer retrospective at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Reacting strongly to the exhibition, he noted: “What so impressed me about the Vermeers was the condition and the vibrancy of the colour…Seeing how Vermeer handled his paint, and beyond that how he controlled the light on to his subjects, sent me back into the studio with tremendous energy” (David Hockney, quoted in Paul Joyce, Hockney on Art, London, 1999, p. 206). Stirred by the Dutch master’s paintings, he situated himself at a far end of his studio where the north light entered the space in precisely the right way. Hockney’s inspiration by Vermeer’s work can clearly be seen in Iris with Evian Bottle, in which his bold use of blue and representation of light are reminiscent of Vermeer’s most treasured compositions, such as Girl with a Wine Glass, 1659-1660, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig. With sensitive brushstrokes, Hockney painted the drip-like reflections of light and the swelling curves of the Evian bottle, conveying his careful observations of luminous refraction where the iris stems enter the water through subtle breaks of line and shifts in color. Though separated by three centuries, both Hockney and Vermeer demonstrated tremendous command of their medium and a compelling ability to depict observed forms through the rich colors of oil paint. Spurred by Vermeer and others, Hockney’s interests in representation and the use of optical devices would culminate four years later in his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.

    Throughout his career, Hockney has also been motivated by the expressive style of another Dutch master – Vincent van Gogh. Among van Gogh’s most revered works are his paintings of irises that he produced while in Saint-Rémy during 1889 and 1890. Hockney’s ingenious use of color, space, and brushwork in Iris with Evian Bottle suggest his study of van Gogh’s Irises, 1890, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Inspired by his predecessor, Hockney emphasized the vibrant purples of the iris petals, which contrast with the variegated greens of their stems. Dramatizing the vibrant growth of the flowers by spreading them across his composition in multiple directions, he also adapted van Gogh’s revolutionary use of shallow space, creating a textured ground of electric blue that indicates a table and walls. Hockney modulated the painting’s surface with directional brushstrokes that enliven his composition, ingeniously drawing attention to the forms of the flowers and the water bottle.

    By establishing visual and conceptual contrasts between the irises and the Evian bottle, Hockney was able to radically update the classic still life for the modern world. In an ingenious nod to the Old Dutch Masters’ inclusion of Delftware with tulips in their still lifes, Hockney here juxtaposes the natural beauty of the flowers with the artificial banality of the plastic water bottle. Though he draws attention to the material differences of the objects, he unified the painting by treating both elements with equal levels of detail and attention. Indeed, the sensitive brushstrokes that define the curves of the Evian bottle are compellingly balanced by the vibrant energy of the iris petals. As Christopher Knight has noted about the artist’s work using an apt floral analogy: “Hockney fills his work with sensual surfaces and seductive visual information, often plucked whole from a variety of sources” (Christopher Knight, “Composite Views: Themes and Motifs in Hockney’s Art”, in David Hockney: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1988, p. 36). This is certainly the case with the dynamic composition, striking colors, and careful observations of form in Iris with Evian Bottle.

Ο ◆28

Iris with Evian Bottle

signed, titled and dated "Iris with Evian bottle 1996 David Hockney" on the reverse
oil on canvas
31 3/4 x 25 5/8 in. (80.7 x 65 cm.)
Painted in 1996.

Estimate
$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

sold for $2,204,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue