David Hockney - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Portraits aren't just made up of drawing, they are made up of other insights as well. Celia is one of the few girls I know really well. I've drawn her so many times and knowing her makes it always slightly different. I don't bother getting the likeness in her face because I know it so well. She has many faces and I think if you looked through all the drawings I've done of her, you'd see that they don't look alike.”
    —David Hockney

    Celia in a Wicker Chair is one of numerous images that David Hockney has produced of his close friend and muse, Celia Birtwell. Breaking with the traditional conventions of portraiture, Celia’s facial figures are barely defined in this lithograph, except for her piercing blue eyes which are outlined in a thick black line and stare back out at the viewer. Instead, it is the boldly patterned and brightly colored dress that Hockney’s model wears which takes center stage. Rather than seeking to capture his model’s true resemblance, Hockney instead focuses on other characteristics which capture the essence of his sitter. In this instance, he focuses on a love of pattern, for which Celia Birtwell is most well-known. 


     Like Hockney, Birtwell was born in the North of England, and she moved to London to pursue her creative passions. She married Raymond ‘Ossie’ Clark, a fashion designer, in 1969 with David Hockney in attendance as Ossie’s best man. Birtwell had studied textile design, and she collaborated with Clark on many projects. Through their patterned silks and chiffons, they helped define the aesthetic of the Swinging Sixties. It was, as many have said, an almost perfect marriage of style. Despite divorcing Clark in 1974, Celia continued to produce textiles. In Celia in a Wicker Chair, Hockney uses her vibrant dress as a device through which to convey her personality, creativity, and occupation.


    The iconography of a seated figure in front of a nondescript or uniform background frequently recurs in Hockney portraiture. In 2016, the artist exhibited 82 recent portraits of his family and friends at the Royal Academy in London, including an image of Celia titled Celia Birtwell, 31st August, 1st, 2nd September 2015. For each portrait included in the exhibition, the model sat on the same yellow upholstered chair in front of the same blue curtain, with their likeness captured over a three-day period on canvases of identical size. By standardizing their surroundings, the focus of each work becomes Hockney’s sitters and what his creative choices convey about his relationship with those depicted. Celia in a Wicker Chair predates these later portraits by several decades, but the comparison demonstrates Hockney’s long-lasting interest in capturing the essence of a person through his artwork. Viewed together, these two images of Celia also attest to Hockney’s habit of returning to the same subject matter and his interest in the passing of time. Having depicted Celia for over half a century, Hockney’s portraits have captured the myriads of her likeness and personality. In one sense, they serve as a collective portrait of Celia Birtwell. 

    • Literature

      Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo 158

    • Artist Biography

      David Hockney

      David Hockney (b. 1937) is one of the most well-known and celebrated artists of the
      20th and 21st centuries. He works across many mediums, including painting, collage,
      and more recently digitally, by creating print series on iPads. His works show semi-
      abstract representations of domestic life, human relationships, floral, fauna, and the
      changing of seasons.

      Hockney has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Royal
      Academy of Arts in London, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, among many
      other institutions. On the secondary market, his work has sold for more than $90

      View More Works

Property from an Esteemed Maryland Collection


Celia in a Wicker Chair (M.C.A.T. 158)

Etching and aquatint in colors, on Rives BFK paper, with full margins.
I. 26 7/8 x 21 1/4 in. (68.3 x 54 cm)
S. 35 1/2 x 29 5/8 in. (90.2 x 75.2 cm)

Signed, dated and numbered 13/60 in pencil (there were also 16 artist's proofs), published by Petersburg Press, New York and London, 1981, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$6,000 - 9,000 

Sold for $13,970

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 16 - 17 April