Lot 24
  • 24

David Hockney, R.A.

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • David Hockney, R.A.
  • Study for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
  • signed with initials and inscribed Saint Tropez
  • coloured pencil on paper
  • 35 by 43cm.; 13¾ by 17in.
  • Executed in 1972.


André Emmerich Gallery Inc., New York
Sale, Sotheby's New York, 9th May 1984, lot 97
Jeffrey Hoffeld & Company, Inc., New York
Private Collection, Miami
Marvin Ross Friedman & Co. Fine Art, Coral Gables, Florida
Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where acquired by the present owner


Liverpool, The Walker Art Gallery, David Hockney Early Reflections, 11th October 2013 - 16th March 2014.

Catalogue Note

David Hockney’s retrospective exhibition at Tate Britain (9th February – 29th May 2017) has been the fastest selling exhibition in Tate’s history. At the heart of the interlocking galleries lies a wondrous room bringing together the artist’s seminal series of so-called double portraits from the late 1960s and 1970s. These grand compositions, all measuring over 3 metres in width, focus on the tantalising psychological dialogue and emotional relationship between the sitters, such as Mr and Mrs Ossie Clark, Fred and Marcia Weisman, Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott. The apogee of the group, illustrated on the front cover of the exhibition catalogue, is undoubtedly Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972, Private Collection, fig.1) turning the focus to the artist himself and depicting his then boyfriend, the artist Peter Schlesinger, standing at the edge of the swimming pool with his assistant, John St Clair, swimming underwater.

The present work captures a pivotal moment in the genesis of the final painting. Inscribed Saint Tropez, the drawing pinpoints the setting to the pool at Le Nid du Duc, director Tony Richardson’s house in the South of France which had become a hotbed and bolthole for London artists who, liberated from the restrictions of London, were free to indulge themselves in a lifestyle that mirrored the carefree sunshine world of glamorous swimming pools which Hockney had found so alluring in Los Angeles.

Hockney’s journey in arriving at the composition had not been a simple process and the creation of the double portrait was famously re-interpreted (with mixed feedback from the key protagonists) in Jack Hazan’s film A Bigger Splash (1974). Hockney had begun a portrait of Peter in October 1971 but amidst the personal backdrop of breaking up with him, he abandoned the original composition. He returned to the subject again in April the following year, in preparation for an exhibition at the André Emmerich Gallery in New York and the final composition was born almost by accident when two photographs, one of a swimmer taken in Hollywood in 1966 and the other of a standing figure, fell together on Hockney’s studio floor. At Le Nid du Duc, he made preparatory photographs of his assistant John St. Clair swimming in the fantastically positioned pool and it is likely that it was on a visit in early April 1972 when Hockney made this fresh and vivid drawing, sketching only a harsh outline for the standing figure since Schlesinger was not available to pose. Eventually Hockney succumbed and returned to London, where he photographed Schlesinger in Kensington Gardens wearing the distinctive pink jacket to allow for the painting to be completed. For eighteen hours a day over two weeks Hockney dedicated himself to the painting, finishing it only the night before it was packed for New York. Just as he had explored the emotional tensions between the sitters in his other double portraits, in this work, the Artist himself is laid bare and the project drew a spectrum of emotions:  

'I must admit I loved working on that picture, working with such intensity; it was marvellous doing it, really thrilling..'
(Hockney, quoted in Peter Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, New York, 1988, p. 125).

'The truth is I was so unhappy, there was nothing to do but work. That was when I started staying in, I didn’t go out much; I just worked and I began the Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) all from September on. Whereas with Peter I often went out of an evening, from then on I didn’t. For about three months I was painting fourteen, fifteen hours a day. There was nothing else I wanted to do. It was a way of coping with life. It was very lonely; I was incredibly lonely…'
(Hockney, quoted in David Hockney by David Hockney, New York, 1977, p.240).

The final compositional arrangement defined so clearly in the present work is one of great sensitivity, revealing the parallel intimacy yet distance between Hockney and Schlesinger. In this drawing, the delicate balance and haunting juxtaposition is palpable between the joy of the swimmer, who glides through clear water towards his partner, arms stretched forwards in anticipation, and the entrapment implied by the weight of the water, the breathlessness of submersion, and the imposing dominance of the clothed figure standing sentinel at the pool’s edge.


These photographs were taken in the summer of 1969 at Le Nid de Duc, the film director Tony Richardson’s hide-away in the hills above St Tropez. Richardson himself was away in Australia filming Ned Kelly with Mick Jagger, but had lent Hockney the house for a month, to do with as he pleased.

David was there with his close circle of friends: his boyfriend Peter Schlesinger, the painter Patrick Procktor, a heavily-pregnant Celia Birtwell and her husband Ossie Clark and, of course, Kasmin, who had been his dealer since the early 60s. On the day these photographs were taken, the party had been joined by some of Kasmin’s art-world crowd, who had dropped by for lunch, including the American painter Jules Olitski, (who Kasmin represented in London) and the eminent art historian William Rubin.

Le Nid de Duc was to feature as the backdrop for a number of works by Hockney in the next couple of years – most famously in Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), with the pool and its fabulous view of the Provencal hills beyond providing a suitably dramatic backdrop to the emotional tie between the swimmer and the man who observes him.