25th Jun, 2024 14:00

Modern British & Irish Art
 
  Lot 35 §
 

DAVID HOCKNEY, R.A. (BRITISH, b.1937)

DAVID HOCKNEY, R.A. (BRITISH, b.1937)
View from Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica
signed with initials and dated 'DH 1970' (lower right); titled 'View from Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica' (lower centre)
crayon and pencil
43.2 x 35.3 cm. (17 x 13 7/8 in.)

Provenance
With Kasmin Gallery, London
John Curtis
With Knoedler Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from their father, circa 2009

Exhibited
Paris, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Palais du Louvre, David Hockney, Paintings and Drawings, 11 Oct-9 Dec 1974, cat.no.88

Hotels, and in particular luxury hotels, became an intermittent but recurring feature of David Hockney’s drawings from the time that he began to enjoy financial success after his first solo exhibition at the Kasmin gallery in 1963. Though it was irksome to him that this might give the impression that he was on perpetual holiday, the drawings that he made on his travels – as he himself pointed out – provided vivid evidence of the contrary: that wherever he was, he was always working, even when his travelling companions were napping, reading or lazing by the side of a swimming pool. The joy of drawing from observation had been instilled in him when he was a student in his native Bradford. As his world expanded, first to London, then to Europe and further afield, he responded with great enthusiasm to the stimulation of these new vistas. As he remarked with pithy accuracy in his brief artist statement to a group exhibition, Image in Progress, at the Grabowski Gallery in London in 1962: ‘I paint what I like, when I like, and where I like, with occasional nostalgic journeys.’ This assertive embrace of the outside world as something to be processed visually through his own eyes, hands and heart, so that every place is transformed into an episode within Hockney’s world, never left him.

A template for this kind of drawing by Hockney was provided by his View of the Nile Hilton 1963, also drawn in coloured pencils, which he made on his arrival in Cairo in October 1963 on commission from The Times newspaper. Later he was to make drawings on the premises of other hotels in often spectacular locations, including the Grand Hotel Vittel inn 1970, Hotel Mamounia in Marrakesh in 1971, the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok in 1971, the Hotel Regina in Venice in 1970, the Luxor Hotel (on a return visit to Egypt in 1978) and hotels on the Côte d’Azur, Baden-Baden, Japan and Phoenix, Arizona. The private home in the south of France of film director Tony Richardson, Le Nid du Duc, was a favourite destination of equivalent opulence and the site of one of Hockney’s most famous paintings, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972. The thrill of being in an exotic, picturesque and unfamiliar place often prompted some of his most beautiful drawings. His native England, on the other hand, did not again become a passionate source of inspiration until around 2003, when he settled for nearly ten years in Bridlington, North Yorkshire.

Hockney had fantasised about visiting Los Angeles long before he first arrived there at the tail end of 1963, aged 26. He had noticed the deep shadows cast in the films of Laurel and Hardy and rightly surmised that the sunshine of southern California would be much brighter and more intense than the flat, grey English light from which he wished to escape. He was not disappointed. Almost immediately on his arrival, from January 1964 through to summer 1968 on prolonged visits, he set about recording the look the sprawling city with which he immediately fell in love. His first apartment and studio there were on Main Street in Santa Monica, the district of Los Angeles nearest to the sea and beaches; the English-born writer Christopher Isherwood, whom he admired and whom he hoped to meet, was a near neighbour, and they soon became friends. Over the next four and a half years he lived at various addresses, all of them in the flat areas that characterise much of the city – including Hollywood, South Central Los Angeles and the area southeast of Beverly Hills known as Country Club Park – rather than in the elevated and much more secluded Hollywood Hills, which he got to know only in the late 1970s and where he was to buy the ranch-style house that remains his L.A. base.

In autumn 1968 Hockney had resettled in London, with Peter Schlesinger, a young student he had met while teaching a drawing course at UCLA and with whom he stayed occasionally on 3rd Street in Santa Monica. London remained his base even after the end of their relationship in the early 1970s. While unofficially resident in Paris from 1973 to 1976 he continued to travel, including two prolonged stays in 1973 and 1976 to make lithographs at the Gemini GEL workshop. In 1970 Hockney’s old friend the art dealer Nick Wilder was moving his gallery to a new space (in which Hockney was to show) in an area of West Hollywood known as Boys Town because of the easy availability there of gay sex; the opportunity to reconnect with him, especially given these circumstances, would not have been a disincentive. It was perhaps one factor that prompted him to return to Los Angeles for a trip lasting several weeks and to stay at the luxurious Miramar Hotel on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

The Miramar Hotel, redesignated the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in 1991, was established in 1921, converted from a Victorian-period mansion. It had an allure rivalled much later by the Château Marmont Hotel in Beverly Hills (which Hockney also frequented during the 1970s) for similar reasons: as a destination for some of the great stars. Among the Miramar’s famous residents in the 1930s was Greta Garbo. A new wing, the hotel’s ten-storey Ocean Tower, was constructed in 1959, supplementing the bungalows that were among its most desirable units.

Hockney’s delicately sumptuous View from the Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica 1970 is in a large format typical of his more elaborate drawings of this period. It would appear to have been made while staying in the more historic part of the hotel. The hotel’s new wing is glimpsed through glass doors looking out onto a balcony perforated with multiple circular openings through which the swimming pool and palm trees offer the temptation to go downstairs and out into the bracing sea air. In the distance, beyond the sandy beach depicted as a tantalising strip of beige, lie Santa Monica Harbour and the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. The entire vista is suffused in light, the feature of southern California that Hockney prized perhaps even more than the modernist architecture, streetscapes and luxuriant foliage that often caught his eye.

At the time that Hockney made this drawing he was experiencing a new level of success, having won first prize in the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition in 1967, followed by a museum show at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester in 1969 and the accolade of a retrospective at the age of 32 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London from 2 April to 3 May 1970. It is easy to imagine that with those pressures a ‘nostalgic return’ to Los Angeles, and particularly to Santa Monica, where he first lived, would have seemed an attractive proposition as a way of escaping the limelight and recharging his batteries. He recounted in David Hockney by David Hockney, published in 1976 and later reprinted as My Early Years, that he went to California on his own in 1970 ‘for some adventure’ at a time when he and Peter were needing some space away from each other, though still getting on well enough; it was only on his return from London from his own sexual adventures that Hockney discovered that Peter was having an affair.

Coloured pencils were generally derided by professional artists as a medium more suitable for young children. Among his peers Peter Blake, whom he knew and admired, was rare in embracing it. Hockney had begun using these in earnest in 1962 at a time that he was using child art as a point of reference for playfully imaginative works, inspired by the example of Jean Dubuffet. By autumn 1963, in the drawings made during his two-week tour of Egypt, he was refining his technique in response to places witnessed first-hand. By 1970 his command of the medium left in no doubt that it was worthy of his attention and of his considerable skill as a draughtsman. While he experimented only briefly in the late 1960s with watercolour, in his drawings he alternated between pen and ink (particularly for line drawing portraits beginning in 1966) and coloured pencils, which enabled him to exploit the possibilities of colour, tone, texture and decorative appeal with a great deal of nuance. However humble the subject matter and the medium, they are among his most prized works.

We are grateful to Marco Livingstone for compiling this catalogue entry

Sold for £403,200

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