Lot 34
  • 34

David Hockney

700,000 - 1,000,000 USD
2,052,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • David Hockney
  • Study for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
  • graphite, gouache, tape and paper collage on paper


Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo
Private Collection (acquired from the above)
Christie's, New York, May 14, 2009, Lot 155 (consigned by the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

A fully realized and extraordinarily executed study for one of David Hockney’s most iconic and well-known paintings, Study for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) is a riveting artifact of the artist’s working process. Completed over a two-week period in April 1972 in Hockney’s London studio following the end of his relationship with Peter Schlesinger, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) shows Schlesinger standing at the edge of the pool gazing at a submerged figure as he swims underwater. Encapsulating every stylistic and technical element central to Hockney’s most beloved early works, this richly painted and collaged work on paper crystallizes—both formally and conceptually—the studied inception and labored creation of an irrefutable masterwork.

Hockney originally derived the composition for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from the accidental juxtaposition of two photographs on his studio floor—one of a swimmer underwater, taken in Hollywood in 1966, and the other of a boy staring at something on the ground. Intrigued by how together, the disparate clipped images made it appear as if the boy was staring at the swimmer, this double-portrait arranged by chance impelled for Hockney a substantial dramatic charge. Hockney had begun the painting in October 1971—as documented in great detail on film by Jack Hazan, who recorded its progress in the artist’s studio. Hockney abandoned the  first incarnation of the canvas around the same time as the dissolution of his romance with Schlesinger, and subsequently spent the remainder of the year travelling through Hawaii, Japan, and South East Asia with Mark Lancaster. In early April, Hockney began the canvas anew in preparation for his exhibition the following month with André Emmerich Gallery in New York. Hockney travelled to Le Nid du Duc—director Tony Richardon’s house in the South of France—to take further preparatory photographs for the painting, taking his studio assistant Mo McDermott as a stand-in for Schlesinger and a young photographer named John St. Clair as the swimmer. Hockney took hundreds of photos at different times of day using his new Pentax camera with automatic exposure, posing McDermott at the pool’s edge wearing Schlesinger’s pink jacket; upon his return, Hockney covered the wall of his studio with these images. Unsatisfied with the photographs of McDermott as surrogate, however, Hockney subsequently photographed Schlesinger in Kensington Gardens in the same position, under the same light conditions, and wearing the same pink jacket; from this shoot, he assembled a composite photograph of Schlesinger made up of five separate collaged sections. Based on this array of photographic studies, Hockney worked on the painting with great passion for eighteen hours a day for two weeks, completing it the night before it was to leave for the New York exhibition. Hockney recalled, “I must admit I loved working on that picture, working with such intensity; it was marvelous doing it, really thrilling.” (David Hockney cited in Peter Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, New York, 1988, p. 125)

Hockney’s intricate, multi-layered process of creating the final painting is nowhere more evident than in this exceptional study. Here, Hockney collages the portrait of a standing Schlesinger atop the scene of the swimmer, mirroring not only the initial manner in which the artist came upon the two disparate images on his studio floor, but also exemplifying the various spliced sources Hockney utilized in the creation of the image. The collage formally identifies the portrait of Schlesigner as separate to the remainder of the image—a gesture that not only technically reflects how the two figures were independently assembled in subsequent stages of photography, but also formally emphasizes the stirring emotional distance between the swimmer and the onlooker in the final composition. Moreover, in the present work the pool is also collaged as a separate element from the surrounding landscape; before Hockney arrived at a final composition, he experimented with various backdrops for the image, changing the setting from distant mountains, to brick walls, glass walls, and finally to these lush green mountains at Le Nid du Duc. Making visually manifest the prolonged thought and extended series of assembled montages that comprise the final image, this study provides not only a captivating glance into one of the Twentieth-Century’s most profound artistic minds, but also stands alone as a conceptually complex and heartbreakingly beautiful depiction of the concomitant intimacy and distance of human relationships.