Contemporary Art

David Hockney Channels the Impressionists in His Masterful Landscape 'Moving Wisp'

By Sotheby's

D avid Hockney’s Moving Wisp embodies the very best qualities that have distinguished the artist’s storied career: an investigation into multiple-point perspective, a unique mining of art history, and a fascination with California landscape.

Hockney’s desire to represent the world around him stems from his admiration for the Impressionists, who captured the changing seasons, transformative effects of light at different times of day, and variances in the natural world with an obsessive and innovative persistence. For much of his career, the artist has engaged the landscape tradition; many of the artist’s earliest paintings depict the places he traveled as a young man, while even today, Hockney continues to represent the world around him.

David Hockney, Moving Wisp, 1995. Estimate $5,000,000–7,000,000.

In Moving Wisp, Hockney seeks to exhibit the wide-ranging topography of his adopted California home, bringing tilled fields, meadows of flowers, grassy knolls, peaked mountains, lush soil, and rushing rivers in an abundant halcyon landscape. The organic shapes making up this scene unfurl across the canvas in exquisite panoply of pure color. Golden sun radiates down, saturating the scene in brilliant light; waves of turquoise and indigo undulate against mahogany and ochre fields.

Drawing inspiration from Pablo Picasso, Hockney collapses traditional single-point perspective, a technique he eschewed because he believed it was meant to keep the viewer outside the picture. By simultaneously featuring various points of view, Hockney creates what is actually a more authentic representation of how we move through and see the world around us. In the artist’s own words: “So ‘how’ we see the world greatly affects ‘what’ we see. No doubt, we have not always been at this level of consciousness…I think now, however, spatial feelings and, therefore, depictions of space, have a great effect on us, a profound effect. It was the growing awareness of this on my part that made me begin to be a little obsessed with ways of depicting space. (David Hockney, That’s the Way I See It, London, 1993, p. 129)

David Hockney working in his Los Angeles studio, April/May 1993, with the present work featured behind him. Photographer: Richard Schmidt. © David Hockney.

A master painter and well-known plunderer of art historical references, Hockney here proudly displays his unparalleled repertoire of mark making he borrows from the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists: tiny dots that recall the Pointillist artists such as Paul Signac, the sinuous and broad brushstrokes of Vincent van Gogh, and the chunkier daubs of color reminiscent of Paul Cézanne.

Bearing pristine provenance, Moving Wisp presents a unique opportunity to acquire an iconic painting by one of today’s most celebrated artists.

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