Contemporary Art

Lose Yourself in the Colors of Hockney's California

By Halina Loft
David Hockney is one of the world’s most acclaimed living artists, with his works regularly achieving eight-figure sums at auction. One of Hockney’s most iconic works, Pool with Pink Pole , is up for sale in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction , on 17 May at 10:00 AM EDT. Until then, the work is on display in Sotheby’s newly-renovated gallery .
David Hockney, Pool and Pink Pole, 1984. Estimate $1,800,000 – 2,500,000.


A t first, all you see is color: cobalt blue, flamingo pink, lemon yellow, jungle green – and, rounding out the rainbow, warm brick red. The spectrum of hues in David Hockney’s Pool and Pink Pole are shockingly vibrant, tremendously alive. But for Hockney, color isn’t just a tool to capture attention: it's a mechanism for pulling the viewer into the frame and transporting them to the artist’s sun-drenched California mindset.

The California sunshine proved transformative for Hockney’s artistic evolution. A native of Northern England, he’d come to age in a world of harsh weather, where gray rain is more common than blue-bird skies. California showed Hockney a new way of looking at the world, leading him on a quest to document planes of saturated color from different vantage points. As the artist notes in the second volume of his autobiography, That’s the Way I See It:

"Whenever I left England, colors got stronger in the pictures. California always affected me with color. Because of the light you see more color, people wear more colorful clothes, you notice it, it doesn’t look garish: there is more color in life here."
(David Hockney, "That’s the Way I See It", London 1993, p. 47)

David Hockney sitting by his pool in Los Angeles, c. 1993. Photo: Mary E. Nichols.

The brighter, West Coast lifestyle proved intoxicating to Hockney, who moved from England to Los Angeles in 1978 in search of inspiration. Soon, he found what he was looking for: Hockney’s new home in the Hollywood Hills became a favorite subject. In Pool and Pink Pole, Hockney paints the landscape of his backyard, as seen from his second-story deck.

David Hockney outside his Los Angeles home in 2016. Courtesy of Matthias Vriens-McGrath. Art © David Hockney

This painting is a terrific example of Hockney’s oeuvre – not only because of the subject matter (Hockney’s blue porch and pool feature in several works from this period) but also due to Hockney’s play with color and depth perception. The artist flattens the space, forcing the viewer to rely on intersecting lines and colliding colors to orient themselves in the landscape. In this way, Hockney invites the viewer to immerse themselves in the scene. As author Lawrence Weschler notes, Hockney aspires to “create a painting where the viewer’s eye could be made to move in a certain way, stop in certain places, move on, and in doing so, reconstruct the space across time for itself.” (Lawrence Weschler, A Visit with David Hockney, in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, David Hockney, 1988, p. 93)

In Pool and Pink Pole, Hockney certainly succeeds in this mission. The overwhelming color and unexpected play on depth combine to create a doorway into Hockney’s California, a setting that’s equal part relaxing paradise and brilliant muse.

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