Hockney is, essentially, an autobiographical artist; throughout his career his work has presented the places of his travels and the people closest to him, those that in some way have touched his life. In 1975, Hockney moved back to London from Paris and was commissioned to design the sets and costumes for Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress” to be performed at Glyndebourne Festival. The Irish restraunteur Peter Langan organised a banquet befitting the occasion, which has since become infamous. Hockney recalls "The picnic was supposed to be for about thirty people, but Peter took 120 bottles of champagne and none went back. I did point out to him, 'That's four bottles each, Peter!' The food was fantastic, enormous lobsters, best hams, marvelous smoked salmon – he knew where to get the good stuff. It was spectacular" (David Hockney quoted in: Christopher Simon Sykes, David Hockney, A Rake's Progress, The Biography, 1937-1975, New York 2011, p. 325-326).
In 1976, Langan, the owner of Odin’s restaurant, was to engage in another gastronomic venture. In partnership with the actor Michael Caine, and the chef Richard Shepherd, he opened Langan’s Brasserie, a smart restaurant in Mayfair in the French style modelled on La Coupole in Paris. It was a heady mix of good food, good wine and good company. Langan was at once flamboyant, controversial and an enthusiastic drinker. His rambunctious behaviour attracted and horrified the clientele alike. By the mid-1980s Langan’s had become London’s most fashionable haunt for stars as diverse as Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, Francis Bacon, Mohammed Ali and Jack Nicholson. It was in essence, the first celebrity restaurant. At the suggestion of Caine, the walls of the restaurant were adorned with works by artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney. Indeed, it was Hockney who was asked to design the menu for the restaurant and the present work is the original drawing, which hung proudly on the restaurant's walls – it was as famous as the restaurant and its proprietors. As Peter Webb remembers of Hockneys menu design: “so successful was it that the menus were continually being stolen” (Peter Webb, Portrait of David Hockney, London 1988, pp. 149-150).
Hockney’s idea placed the proprietors, Langan, Caine and Shepherd, sitting across from one another at one of the Brasserie’s tables amidst a scattering of wine glasses. Langan on the left clutches the largest glass; Shepherd, sits across in his chef’s whites and a red-neckerchief drawing on a cigarette; while Caine sits nonchalantly between them holding a ubiquitous cigar and wearing a wide-lapelled jacket and large collared shirt – the epitome of 1970’s cool. Typically, Hockney captured the essence both of the situation and the details within it; combining the key ingredients that made Langan’s Brasserie a London icon: food, wine, conversation and star-quality. Hockney’s sumptuous use of line and coloured crayon achieves a richly textured surface and encapsulates a sense of depth and form, as well as a superb likeness of the sitters. In keeping with the very best examples of the period, this superb work magnificently illustrates Tate curator Chris Stephen’s description of Hockney’s finest works on paper in capturing “not just the form of the body, its attire and setting, but the personality of the sitter and a sense of time by somehow creating the momentary impression of an arrested movement” (Chris Stephens, ‘Close Looking’ in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate (and travelling), David Hockney, 2017, p. 96).
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