In a way evocative of Rembrandt’s early Self Portrait, the seventeen year old Hockney glances hesitantly out of the frame, intensely holding the viewer’s gaze. This compelling self-portrait captures the young artist having just enrolled at the Regional College of Art in Bradford and at the dawn of a far-reaching and remarkable artistic career than would encompass several decades.
Arrestingly fully-resolved in spite of an inexperienced hand, the composition is with hindsight, reminiscent of Hockney’s later portraits. The perspective and attention to detail, including the background, came naturally to Hockney. Bradford’s moody industrial landscape visible behind the young man seems to envelop him. Hockney’s early paintings, with their muddy skies and rain-slicked rooftops, are pervaded with a feeling of melancholy and wonder and allow a historical glimpse into regional life at the time.
Demonstrating both self-scrutiny and curiosity and at the same time a young man’s romantic homage to his hometown, the present work offers true Hockney connoisseurs the outstandingly rare opportunity to acquire not only the first self portrait painting by Hockney to come up at auction in almost twenty years, but more importantly one of the artist’s very first oil paintings ever produced, a medium he would cherish and restlessly investigate for the rest of his practice. Strikingly touching and profoundly empathic, Self Portrait can be singled out as a seminal work by one of the last living modern masters of the twentieth century.
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