David Hockney ode to French Riviera sells for £24 million
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David Hockney's 1969 painting "Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime", inspired by a French Riviera sunrise, sold for over £24 million ($27.3 million) at a London sale Thursday -- more then double the pre-sale estimate.
The piece dates from a transitional phase in the British artist's early career, between his seminal, highly stylised Californian swimming pool paintings and the "naturalism" that came to define his later work.
The work showcases his increasing fascination with light, capturing "glass-like waters bathed in the sparkling light of a new day", said auction house Christie's.
"It is a work of rare, near-cinematic beauty that -- in both subject and style -- ushers in a thrilling new dawn."
The work was created at the height of Hockney's romance with Peter Schlesinger, representing a time of "personal contentment and professional triumph", said the auction house.
It was included in Hockney's first retrospective in London in 1970, and was unseen in public for over three decades.
The work belongs to a group of four paintings based on photographs that Hockney, now aged 85, took during his 1968 European trip with Schlesinger, having recently returned from four years living in California, where he had met his partner.
"Notably, the imagery would ultimately come full circle: it was with a poignant sunset that Hockney ultimately bade farewell to his lover in the deeply emotive 1971 painting 'Sur la Terrasse'," said Christie's.
Hockney later said that the idea of painting moving water in a "very slow and careful manner was (and still is) very appealing to me.
"It is a formal problem to represent water, to describe water, because it can be anything -- it can be any colour, it's movable, it has no set visual description," he added.
Hockney's 1972 work "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" sold for $90,312,500 in New York in 2018, which at the time was the highest auction price realised for a living artist.
Thursday's winning bid came in at £20,899,500, which works out at £24,219,427 once the buyer's premium is included.