Lot 43
  • 43

Patrick Caulfield, R.A., C.B.E.

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Patrick Caulfield, R.A., C.B.E.
  • Foyer
  • signed, titled and dated 1973 on the canvas overlap
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 213 by 213cm.; 84 by 84in.


Waddington Galleries, London
Saatchi Collection
Sale, Christie's London, 30th May 1997, lot 147, where acquired by David Bowie


Tokyo, Nishimura Gallery, 1973 (details untraced);
New York, O.K. Harris Works of Art, October 1974, cat. no.2;
Edinburgh, The Scottish Arts Council, Patrick Caulfield, Paintings and Prints, October - November 1975, cat. no.2;
London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Caulfield: Recent Paintings, 25th November - 20th December 1975, un-numbered catalogue, illustrated;
London, Hayward Gallery, Hayward Annual, 1977, cat. no.20, illustrated p.17;
Liverpool, The Walker Art Gallery, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings 1961-1981, 22nd August - 4th October 1981, (ex. cat.), with tour to Tate, London;
London, Hayward Gallery, Patrick Caulfield: A Retrospective, 4th February - 11th April 1999, cat. no.17, illustrated n.p., with tour to Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art, Luxembourg, Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Portugal and the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven;
London, Tate, Patrick Caulfield, 5th June - 1st September 2013, cat. no.37, illustrated p.60.


'Patrick Caulfield Paintings 1963-1992', Art & Design Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 5/6, May - June 1992, illustrated p.39;
Marco Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2005, illustrated p.82.


The following report has been prepared by Philip Young Conservation, of Studio 3 Nutbrook Studios, 33 Nutbrook Street, London, SE15 4JU: 31st October 2016 The painting was examined at Bond Street on the above date. The painting is in a good condition, details of condition as discussed below and with reference to the annotated image. STRUCTURE AND CONDITION There is a painted and gilded timber tray frame which has served to protect the edges of the painting, this covers much of the sides but does not pass over the face. The stretcher appears not to be the original, there are lines of priming bleeding through onto the back denoting the shape and position of the original. The replacement is not new and has been with the painting for some time. Labels have been transferred onto the stretcher. Canvas tension is good and there are no significant bumps, dents or other distortions apart from inherent lines in the weave of the canvas (as noted in the image), with a slight hint of the stretcher bar position at the centre in certain light angles. The paint surface has a light grey dirt layer, partly removed at the edges where fingermarks were recently reduced. In close examination of the lower sections there are some lines and groups of surface rubs and abrasions, as marked in the image, with some finer scratches and pale surface marks. The paint layers have the characteristic artist's adjustments and retouchings, and in UV light no restoration or addition was noted in the conditions at the time. TREATMENT There is no need for treatment in terms of the stability or soundness of the work. At some point the paint surface should be cleaned to remove all the remaining dirt and the surface accretions, at that point the scuffs and scratches can be tended too minimally to reduce their appearance. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

One of the underlying themes of David Bowie’s collection is that of artists who defy easy description (a possible reason too for his wider interest in British art of the 20th Century, which is never dogmatic in quite the way American or European art was). This can certainly be said of Patrick Caulfield.

He is often considered to be one of Britain’s leading Pop artists, a painter of everyday objects in the flat graphic style of illustration and advertising (at this point Caulfield’s own early training as a commercial draughtsman is referenced), who, like Warhol and  Lichtenstein, skewered the new materialism of the 50s and 60s, the mass-produced experience of the modern world, by making it both the subject-matter and medium of fine art – that part of culture where we are meant to see what lies beyond the everyday and the commercial, to see ourselves more deeply.

Caulfield’s work, however, shares nothing of the straight-up presentation of Pop. His paintings of everyday objects are instead full of sophisticated ‘high art’ design. If anything, they have more to do with Cubism’s dissolution of pictorial space, Synthetic Cubism’s continuation of this into something cleaner and more abstract, to which Purism then adds an exquisite outline and flatness. Caulfield’s technique, too, may be based on the prosaic black line and filled-in colour of commercial illustration, yet his work is entirely concerned with playing perceptual games – of line, plane and volume, space, projection and recession. This is perfectly illustrated in Foyer, where Caulfield takes a Mondrian-like attitude to a limited palette and creates an image that is both totally flat and completely illusionistic. Light and dark, one of the foundations of traditional perspective exists purely as a change in colour. 

Caulfield’s choice of subject is indeed very much Pop in spirit, which in turn has a heavy dose of Duchamp’s idea of the ‘found object’ (and Duchamp is an artist who Bowie cited as being profoundly inspirational for him). The cinema foyer, the restaurant interior, wine glasses on a bar – all of these are ‘found objects’ for Caulfield. But rather than bring them into the gallery, he leaves them where they are in the wider world. They become beautiful through being made simple and then being infused with colour.

Looking down through the first few rooms of Caulfield’s recent retrospective at Tate Britain – a show which included Foyer – the overwhelming sense to the viewer was of vast colour-field paintings, dominated by one colour but always with a counter-point without which that colour would be dull. It was only on moving through the exhibition that one began to see the black lines that describe the narrative within, the ‘subject-matter’ of each work. And it is this dominance of colour, its power in an abstract sense, that makes Caulfield un-Pop, more Ellsworth Kelly than Andy Warhol. Even though it is even and flat, it is flooded with light through careful juxtapositions of colour and tone and therefore becomes emotive in its own right.

Caulfield’s work is unashamedly contemporary and urban, occasionally even deliberately louche. Indeed, Foyer is a typical subject for him, tipping its hat to the cultural life of the metropolis, although the small patch of green inevitably leads our eye straight to a world of more earthly pleasures. The fabric-covered central column is attempting an air of luxury but is, even for 70s Britain, a bit drab (although Caulfield turns it, with its slightly wobbly line juxtaposed with  the ramrod straight line of the wall, into a self-referential play about Modernist abstraction and the battle in the 60s between the hard-edge and the soft). And yet, in contrast, Caulfield’s work is also Neoclassical in its purity and stillness. He brings to 70s London a rigour, a line, that has more in common with those Renaissance panoramas of ideal, Platonic cities. The everyday is made less ordinary once you strip it down. It even takes on a certain grandeur.

The fact, then, that Patrick Caulfield is difficult to pin down – a Pop artist with Cubist sympathies, an abstract painter of everyday objects – is perhaps one of the reasons why he is not as well-known internationally as his American or European peers, although he richly deserves to be held in equally high regard. Very few painters in the 1960s and 70s could claim to be making work with such sophistication and wit, with such an old-fashioned understanding of space and line combined with a contemporary sense of colour, simultaneously sumptuous and minimal.