Lot 38
  • 38

David Hockney

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
4,687,550 USD
bidding is closed


  • David Hockney
  • Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday
  • signed, titled, and dated 1989 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California
Robert A. Rowan, Pasadena, California (acquired from the above in 1990)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Venice, California, L.A. Louver Gallery; and Honolulu, The Contemporary Museum, David Hockney: Some New Pictures, December 1989 - March 1990, p. 25, no. 9, illustrated in color
London, Tate Britain, David Hockney, February - May 2017, p. 154, illustrated in color


David Hockney and Hans Werner Holzwarth, eds., David Hockney - A Bigger Book, Cologne, 2016, pp. 244-245, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

In its perspectivally complex composition and arresting palette of bold blues, greens, and aquamarines, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday showcases the rich, saturated color application and deft handling of space that are characteristic of David Hockney’s greatest paintings. A testament to the significance of this painting within the artist’s larger body of work, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday was selected to be included in the artist’s most recent and comprehensive retrospective at the Tate Britain in London. Executed in 1989, the year following Hockney’s move from Hollywood Hills to his beach house in Malibu, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday captures Hockney at a moment of renewed inspiration and creative ingenuity. Inspired and reinvigorated by the awe inspiring natural splendor and distinctive topography of coastal Malibu, Hockney sought to communicate this sense of climatic vitality and profound immediacy: “At one side of my little house in Malibu is the Pacific Coast Highway; at the other side is the beach. I step out of my kitchen door and there, right here, is the sea. So when I am painting in my studio I am very aware of nature, in its infinity, and of the sea endlessly moving.” (David Hockney quoted in Nikos Stangos, Ed., David Hockney: That’s The Way I See It, London, 1993, p. 196) Painted just one year after Hockney’s first, critically acclaimed American retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday captures Hockney at a critical moment in his artistic development. Universally celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest living artists, the emotional immediacy of Hockney’s surroundings in Malibu drove him to re-imagine landscape painting. Emerging from the noteworthy collection of Robert A. Rowan, the prominent California collector who was not only a founding trustee, President and a driving force behind the Pasadena Art Museum, but also a founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday remained in the Rowan collection for decades since it was acquired the year following its creation.

Loosely adhering to the formalities of traditional linear perspective, diagonal lines converge in a single point to frame a composition which is richly informed by Hockney's experience creating stage-set designs for most of the 1980s. Hockney radically collapses foreground and background so that the stage-like structure of the breakfast room becomes at once in front of and indeed a part of the Pacific Ocean behind it. Eliminating any clear distinction between interior space and the natural world by means of the transparent glass windows framing the screen, the present landscape conveys the invigorating immediacy and intimacy that Hockney experienced in his oceanic vista. Painting with vivid brushstrokes and vibrant, raw colors that clearly evoke the post-Impressionist masters whom he greatly admired, especially Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Henri Matisse, Hockney flattens space to enhance the emotional and physical immediacy of the viewing experience. Like the two-dimensional cut-out props of a stage set, Hockney delineates space into numerous discrete planes that demonstrate neither tonal nor perspectival recession, but rather appear entirely flat. The cadmium yellow of the breakfast room floorboards lack any sense of spatial depth, and without the referential guidance of a horizon line for orientation, the waves outside Hockney’s window unfurl across the canvas as swaths of deeply rich blues, lush, verdant greens, and foamy whites, all applied in thick layers of tactile impasto that deliberately leave traces of each individual brushstroke. The sense of immediacy that Hockney clearly feels with his environment here is heightened by his tactile handling of paint and by the intimacy of the subject matter itself: deliberately leaving an empty chair and drawing the viewer on to the stage of his breakfast room, Hockney invites the viewer to share breakfast with him - a highly personal, daily ritual - overlooking his beloved ocean vista.

Hockney draws clear inspiration from Malibu’s striking landscape, defined by mountains that dramatically emerge out of and push up against the sea. Both the mountains and the ocean have an infinite monumentality to them, but the transient waves and depthless expanse of the Pacific Ocean contrast with the voluminous permanence and stature of mountains. In Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday, Hockney collapses and coalesces these two opposing forms, creating mountainous crests of sea that acquire a density and permanence that belies the transience and temporality of the ocean. Infused with a vibrancy characteristic of Hockney’s masterful command of color, exaggerated hues of blue and green playfully dance across the expanse of canvas. Pointed waves crash against the thrashing whorls of water, each ripple of the ocean rendered with extraordinary texture in varying tones of brilliant azure and depthless emerald green. While still firmly grounded in the figurative landscape of coastal California, Hockney’s poetic interpretation of land and sea foreshadow his imminent shift to total abstraction and geometric form just several years later. Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday arrives at a pivotal juncture in Hockney’s late career. Having already gained international acclaim as a painter, Hockney now reimagines his approach to space and form, attempting to capture and impart the overwhelming stretch of a space that is so infinitely expansive. With its Fauvist color palette, near-Cubist fracturing of space, and intimations of Surrealist geometric abstraction, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday reflects Hockney’s studied approach to painting and emphatically demonstrates the artist’s ability to seamlessly integrate the painterly techniques of the past with his own distinctive, inventive, and remarkably intimate experience of reality. A highly personal and poetically playful landscape, Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday blurs the line between visceral reality and staged fantasy.