David Hockney - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips

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  • “I draw flowers every day and send them to my friends so they get fresh blooms every morning.”
    — David Hockney  


    Detail of photograph of David Hockney taken by Peter Schlesinger in 1970


    Stemming from David Hockney’s distinguished series of floral still life paintings, Bridlington Violets epitomises the celebration of colour and form that defines his magnificent visual world. Set against a juniper yellow-green background rendered in short, horizontal brushstrokes, a lively bunch of noble purple violets burst out from a dark, rounded vase. Though the enigmatic composition denies specificity of both time and scene, the sweeping, visceral strokes of Hockney’s brush imbues the textured plane with movement, capturing the artist’s physical joy in the tactile qualities of paint. A piece of British art history, the present work was created in 1989, just after a major retrospective of Hockney’s work travelled from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, before closing at the Tate Gallery in London (1988-1989).


    Hockney Blooms


    “I think every artist who deals with the visible world must come back to it. 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 on the still life genre


    Flowers have been a central theme of Hockney’s oeuvre since the 1970s; so much so that they have come to be frequently interpreted as a symbol for the artist himself, as if he inserts his presence into the compositions of many of his masterworks. Though his exploration of the motif can be traced back to earlier paintings such as Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969), Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy (1970-1971), and My Parents (1977) – in the mid-1980s Hockney gradually gave greater importance to the subject as he developed a broader preoccupation painting the still life genre, contributing to a rich history of chronicling the abundancies of nature that spans centuries.

  • As Hockney asserts, ‘Painting still lifes can be as exciting as anything can be in painting. I remember once saying to Francis Bacon in Paris, that I knew a painting in California of tulips in a vase that was as profound as any painting he’d made. I think at first he almost thought I was referring to my own, but I was referring to the Cézanne in the Norton Simon Museum. It’s the most beautiful painting, and it is as profound as anything he did. Just some tulips in a vase. The profundity is not in the subject, it is the way it’s dealt with.’ i



    Vincent van Gogh, Irises, 1890

    Collection of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

    © Photo Art Resource/SCALA, Florence 2021


    The present work draws an instant comparison to Vincent van Gogh’s Irises from 1890, an artist whom Hockney deeply admires. Though Hockney attests that van Gogh’s universal appreciation is attributed to the fact that viewers can really ‘see how [the paintings] are done: all the brush marks are visible’, he continues his praise in expressing ‘[van Gogh] was really the first great colourist… great, great colourist. He saw more than other people.’ ii The same is true for Hockney, as masterfully presented by Bridlington Violets which, like Irises, is composed of opposing hues on the colour wheel that strengthen each other by their visual juxtaposition: blue and purple against yellow or green.


    The consequential effect is tremendously rich, of blossoming buds that pop out against the startling background behind, meticulously painted with tonal contrasts that both compliment and contradict, seemingly changing in the light before us as if in harmonious dialogue with the Impressionists. At the same time, like van Gogh’s highly rhythmic application of impasto—which too, was largely influenced by Impressionistic technique (see for example, Lot 31 – Claude Monet, Pavots dans un vase de Chine (1883))—Hockney’s command of texture imbues each petal, leaf, and pane of colour with a life if its own, as if painting their individual portraits.




    Claude Monet, Pavots dans un vase de Chine, 1883

    Lot 31 – Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction Evening Sale, 30 November 2021

    Estimate HK$ 9,500,000 - 15,000,000 / US$ 1,220,000 - 1,920,000



    A Play with Perspective


    Painted in 1989, Bridlington Violets is a superb example of Hockney’s return to painting after his ambitious ‘post cubist’ experiments with photo-collages that defined his practice at the start of the decade. Enthused by his desire to form compositions that reflect the sensations of observation as opposed to scientifically render a scene, Hockney’s photo-collages ‘solve[d] a problem that he had been musing on for several years; how to make representation of the real world without using conventional single-point perspective.’ iii This perhaps might have been spurred by a trip he took to Paris in December 1984, where he came across Pablo Picasso’s Femme Couchée (1932) at the Centre Pompidou. Musing over how you ‘could see the back and front at the same time’, Hockney remarked ‘you would not ask yourself, where am I? You were inside the picture; you had to be, because you couldn’t be simply outside it and move round it.’ iv



    Pablo Picasso, Femme couché, 1932, Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris
    © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    That same year, Hockney’s investigations into the possibilities of perspective were further enhanced by his newly found interest in traditional Chinese scroll paintings, owing to his discovery of George Rowley’s 1947 book, The Principals of Chinese Painting. In 1984 Hockney was invited to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see a 72-foot scroll commissioned by the Chinese emperor dating from 1690, and ‘spent four hours on his knees unrolling the parchment and observing each tiny detail.’ v Mesmerised by how the work could not be seen in its entirety, requiring for the viewer to physically navigate the expansive space with constantly changing viewpoints, Hockney highlighted the experience as ‘one of the most thrilling afternoons [he’d] ever had’, vi later creating a dedicated film centred around the scroll a year prior to Bridlington Violet’s execution.



    Still from film by David Hockney and Philip Haas, A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China, Milestone Film & Video, Publisher, Harrington Park, New Jersey, 1988

    Image Courtesy of David Hockney and Philip Haas


    These influences marvellously fed into Hockney’s practice as his experiments later expanded into the realm of painting, culminating in works such as Bridlington Violet where although the viewer is presented with the floral vase from front-on, there are constantly changing vantage points that arise when examining the curving leaves and petals in closer detail, leaving the viewer to feel they are experiencing the work from multiple angles concurrently. In constructing coherent space through an arrangement of fragmented views of the same subject, Hockney embraces tradition whilst simultaneously innovates, liberating himself from the constraints of naturalism as he rejects historical ideas of perspective. As he asserts: ‘perspective takes away the body of the viewer. You have a fixed point, you have no movement; in short, you are not there really. For something to be seen, it has to be looked at by somebody and any true and real depiction should be an account of the experience of looking.’ vii


    Home in Bridlington


    Hockney was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1937 and moved to London at the end of the 1950s to study at the Royal College of Art. In the 1960s he relocated to Los Angeles and was struck by the sunny light and colour that is now signature of his work. His family began to migrate Eastward in the 1970s, with his sister moving to Bridlington—a seaside town to the East of York where their mother soon joined. Hockney became a frequent visitor, purchasing a house with an adjoining studio which he returned more permanently in 2004, reengaging with the vast countryside landscape of his home.


    Rendered in bright yellow-green and vibrant shades of purple that showcase a unique proficiency for colour-theory Hockney finessed in California, Bridlington Violets is a joyful celebration of the still life genre, quintessential of Hockney’s celebrated series of painted blooms. And yet, differing to other similar floral works by the artist in that not all are geographically alluded to by their title, Bridlington Violets can be considered a painterly love letter to Bridlington, and to Hockney’s native Yorkshire. 



    Detail of the present work


    “I mean, everything is fresh about blossom, isn’t it?” 
    – David Hockney


    Collector’s Digest


    Renowned as one of the most prominent creators of our contemporary times, having achieved over 80 international award and honours, work by Hockney now forms part of the world’s most prestigious collections. This includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D. C.; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and The British Museum, London.


    Having been honoured with extensive solo exhibitons and retrospectives throughout his career, Hockney is currently presenting solo shows at Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris with David Hockney. A Year in Normandie (13 October 2021 – 14 February 2022); Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels with David Hockney. The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 and David Hockney. Works from the Tate Collection, 1954-2017 (8 October 2021 – 23 January 2022); and the Salts Mill in West Yoskhire, UK, with David Hockney. Woldgate Woods, Winter 2010 (extended through September 2022).


    In December 2020 in New York, Phillips achieved the world record for a landscape by Hockney with Nichols Canyon (1980), which soared above US$40,000,000.




    David Hockney, Nichols Canyon, 1980

    Sold by Phillips New York on 7 December 2020 for US$41,067,500
    © David Hockney




    i David Hockney, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Life of the artist: David Hockney in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist’, BBC, 14 May 2015, online

    ii David Hockney, quoted in ‘David Hockney on Vincent van Gogh’, Van Gogh Museum, 4 March 2019, online

    iii David Hockney, quoted in David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, exh. cat., Royal Academy, London, 2012, p. 62

    iv David Hockney, quoted in Catherine Cusset, David Hockney: A Life, London, 2019, n.p.

    v David Hockney, quoted in lecture presented by Southern California Institute of Architecture, ‘David Hockney: Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor Of China (September 14, 1988)’, online

    vi David Hockney, quoted in Nikos Stangos, ed., That’s the Way I See It: David Hockney, London, 1993, p. 102

    vii David Hockney, quoted in David Hockney, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2017, p. 142

    • Provenance

      André Emmerich Gallery, New York
      Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo
      Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
      Private Collection, Florida
      Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in 2001)
      Phillips, London, 8 March 2018, lot 23
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Tokyo, Nishimura Gallery, David Hockney Paintings - Flower, Chair, Interior, 23 October - 25 November 1989, no. 12, n. p. (illustrated)
      Los Angeles, L.A. Louver Gallery; Honolulu, The Contemporary Museum, David Hockney: 72 New Pictures, 6 December 1989 - 19 March 1990, pl. 17 (illustrated)

Ο ◆ ✱21

Bridlington Violets

signed, titled and dated '"Bridlington Violets" 1989 David Hockney' on the reverse
oil on canvas
35.6 x 45.7 cm. (14 x 18 in.)
Painted in 1989.

Full Cataloguing

HK$10,000,000 - 15,000,000 

Sold for HK$12,350,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021