Christopher Hartmann - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I’m interested in the gap between what the relationship is and what it appears to be.”
    —Christopher Hartmann

    With its saturated, luminous tones, hyperreal precision and impossibly smooth finish, Christopher Hartmann’s Still Looking showcases all the technical qualities that the young, London-based artist has become known for in recent years. Featuring two, larger than life male figures whose limbs interlock as one balances on the other’s shoulders, the present work also highlights the ambiguous but highly charged narrative force that underpins Hartmann’s painting and his investigations into contemporary masculinity. Representing the artist’s auction debut, Still Looking was included in Hartmann’s first solo show, Christopher Hartmann: In and Out of Touch with Hannah Barry Gallery in London in 2021.


    On Intimacy and Alienation


    Finely attuned to the sensory experience of touch and the deeply affective and tactile qualities of flesh and fabric, Hartmann’s paintings are deeply concerned with relationships, the sensorial and emotional sensations of physical contact, and of the yearning of one body for another. Here, Hartmann’s careful modelling of the folds in the subject’s clothes, in contrast to the yielding firmness of flesh, is powerfully evocative of this complex desire, visually referencing the emotional force and drama of Baroque painters such as Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio


    Details of the present work


    Exquisitely rendered, we can almost feel the weight of the hands of the standing figure protectively cupped on the knees of the other, a gesture loaded with emotive impact that registers an immediate response in our own bodies. Touch is the fundamental tool through which we navigate our relationships to others, the world around us, and which most radically underpins the sense of being in our bodies. Although not strictly autobiographical, in its careful examination of intimacy, Still Looking records the deeply personal lens through which the artist has developed his pictorial language. As the artist has explained, ‘I’ve always been drawn to the human figure, and that is something that has never changed. Even though my work itself is not about me, it contains elements that are deeply personal. I want to talk about themes that are close to me and I have found the best way to communicate them is through painting.’i


    In his careful attention to detail and evident mastery of the modelling effects of light, colour, and shadow, Hartmann’s work also draws parallels with that of German interwar Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) artist Christian Schad, who forged similarly powerful relationships between the smooth polish of his execution and a more disquieting atmosphere of alienation and isolation. Painting in the wake of the First World War, Schad became well known for his depictions of contemporary society. Despite their close physical proximity, the groups in his portraits often register a cool detachment from one another, frequently looking directly out at, or indeed through us, emphasising the tensions between intimacy and emotional detachment. Achieved in part through the smooth finish of his paintings and their heighted, almost hyperreal polish, the scale and compositional arrangement of Schad’s figures also contribute to this sense of alienation, echoed too in Hartmann’s larger than life-size figures and his ‘new conception of bodies and their presence in space’’ii

    Christian Schad, Count Saint-Genois of Anneaucourt, 1927, Private Collection. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Christian Schad Stiftung Aschaffenburg/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2023


    And yet, despite these art historical resonances, Hartmann’s work is utterly contemporary, reflected especially in the connections that he draws between the visual technologies of our age and the emotional consequences of late capitalism, making pointed reference to sociologist Eva Illouz’s notion of the ‘cold intimacies’ that characterise our age. Invoking ‘artificiality’ and the experience of otherness as key to his own work, Hartmann’s figures have a certain digital character to them that grounds his use of vibrant, oversaturated tones. Inspired by images – notably fashion editorials and their own invocation of art historical references - Hartmann begins with a compositional idea, staging photographs which he then edits through a range of digital tools to enhance and manipulate this source image. Describing his process, Hartmann explains:

    “I start by painting an underlayer so that the second layer appears brighter, inspired by the brightness of the screens I’m constantly looking at. I always work from pictures on a screen. Probably because these digital images belong to a contemporary context, my colour palette is automatically influenced by it. My paintings are not about the digital itself, but my images and subjects are definitely bound to it.”
    —Christopher Hartmann

    Working in the deeply traditional medium of painting, Hartmann’s approach to his compositions is nevertheless utterly contemporary, forging fascinating connections between certain technological and digital tools, and the more nebulous sensations of alienation and a yearning for connection that characterises so much of our contemporary lives.


    Collector’s Digest

    • Born in Germany in 1993 of blended Costa Rican and German heritage, Christopher Hartmann lives and works in London.

    • Signalled out as one of Bloomberg’s ‘New Contemporaries’ in 2021, in the same year Hartmann was also the focus of solo shows at Hannah Barry Gallery in London, GNYP Gallery in Berlin, and the Nassima Landau Foundation in Tel Aviv where he went on to take up a residency in 2022, the same year as his first solo show in Japan with T&Y projects in Tokyo.

    • Now represented by Blum & Poe, the artist’s first show with the gallery was held in their Los Angeles gallery earlier this year, Still Looking represents the artist’s auction debut.




    i Christopher Hartmann, quoted in María Fuentes Guiote, ‘Christopher Hartmann, Monumental Feeling’, Metal Magazine, online.

    ii María Fuentes Guiote, ‘Christopher Hartmann, Monumental Feeling’, Metal Magazine, online.

    • Provenance

      Hannah Barry Gallery, London
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Hannah Barry Gallery, Christopher Hartmann – In and out of touch, 3 June – 31 July 2021

Property of an Important Collection


Still Looking

signed and dated ‘Christopher Hartmann 2021’ on the overlap
oil on canvas
180 x 130 cm (70 7/8 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 ‡♠

Sold for £38,100

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 October 2023