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David Hockney: more than pool pictures

NEW YORK – David Hockney is synonymous with paintings of swimming pools, but throughout his career he has utilized many techniques and styles in creating art and his subject matter interests have ranged from landscapes to portraits. While celebrated as a painter, he is also a talented draftsman, printmaker, photographer and stage designer. From his double-portraits in the early 1960s, which gave way to swimming pools and California landscapes later that decade to rarely shown photographic collages in the 1980s and more recent iPad drawings printed on paper, the artist is known for bold and colorful works encompassing varied media.

David Hockney’s ‘30 Sunflowers,’ 1996, oil on canvas, made $2.2 million + buyer’s premium in May 2011 at Phillips. Photo courtesy of Phillips and LiveAuctioneers

Considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Hockney was born in Bradford, England and has long maintained homes and studios in London and California, which inspires much of his artwork.

In early 2020, London’s National Portrait Gallery opened “David Hockney: Drawing from Life,” the first major exhibition of the artist’s works in two decades. The exhibition explored how drawing is integral to the manner in which Hockney (b, 1937) processes the world through his art and experiments with new techniques and concepts that later make their way into paintings. One art style seems to lead to another, creating a chain of sorts in his oeuvre.

David Hockney ‘Maurice 1998,’ etching A.P. II/X 44 x 30½in © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt, Collection: The David Hockney Foundation; David Hockney ‘No. 1201,’ March 14, 2012, iPad Drawing © David Hockney. Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London

“Drawing from Life” explores Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950s to now by focusing on his depictions of himself and a small group of sitters close to him: his friend, Celia Birtwell; his mother, Laura Hockney; his curator, Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne,” according to a press release on the exhibition.

The exhibition includes new and early works that have not been publicly shown before. The exhibition was scheduled to travel to other museums, including the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.

This signed lithograph titled ‘Hotel Acatlan’ went for $67,600 + buyer’s premium in November 2019 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Modern Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Among his most well-collected paintings are his California-inspired works, especially those of pools. The David Hockney Foundation website notes in its chronology for the artist that Hockney found endless inspiration in California’s landscape, both natural and man-made. Swimming pools were a favorite motif during the 1960s, where Hockney explored the reflective quality of pools and its interplay with sunlight. “He continues to be mesmerized, as his work attests, by that city’s swimming pools and other glistening surfaces,” according to the foundation website.

Hockney’s paintings routinely bring solid prices on the art market and it should come as no surprise little surprise that his sun-dazzled pool paintings are among the most desirable.

This 1976 photo portfolio, ‘20 Photographic Pictures,’ with 20 chromogenic prints, published by Editions Sonnabend, brought $60,000 + buyer’s premium at Millea Bros. Ltd. in May 2018. Photo courtesy of Millea Bros. Ltd. and LiveAuctioneers

Hockney’s self-portrait, one of many, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, set a new auction record in November 2018 for the most expensive painting by a living artist. It sold at Christie’s New York for $90 million. In February 2020, Sotheby’s London held a contemporary art evening auction that was led by The Splash, a 1966 acrylic, selling for over $28 million. The latter painting was made near the start of Hockney’s California era, which is marked by his California Dreaming series, where he began using acrylic paints.

While portraits and his California scenes are famous for being avidly sought after by collectors, Hockney’s landscapes are also notable, even ones not associated with West Coast locales. In February 2020, William Bunch Auctions & Appraisals in Chadds Ford, Pa., sold an English landscape from the 1950s, Kirton, an oil on board, well over its high estimate for $75,000.

This early landscape oil on board, ‘Kirton,’ circa 1950s, attained $75,000 + buyer’s premium in February 2020 at William Bunch Auctions. Photo courtesy of William Bunch Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

In the 1950s, Hockney painted landscapes around Suffolk County before discovering abstract expressionism, which had a profound influence on his artistic visions,” according to the auctioneer’s catalog notes for this painting. Still a teenager at this time, Hockney and fellow artist John Loker were known to have spent some time around Kirton in 1957, on their way to Constable, to paint or sketch local scenes en plein air. They were often seen riding around the countryside on their bicycles.

In his native Bradford, where he was born, he is so revered that Bradford Museums & Galleries, whose art collection likely intrigued and inspired the artist-to-be as a child, officially opened up its David Hockney Gallery in July 2017 as part of Cartwright Hall.

A polychrome pencil and tempera work on paper, inscribed ‘Small Californian Forest,’ realized $66,572 + buyer’s premium in June 2019 at Itineris. Photo courtesy of Itineris and LiveAuctioneers

Jill Iredale, curator of fine arts at Bradford Museums & Galleries, wrote in a blog a month later about the intimate look the new gallery offers and its rare insights. “It provides examples of the different medium he has used and introduces some of the recurring themes in his work, and it gives an insight into his family life through his personal photograph albums—albums that have never been seen in public before,” she wrote.

From his self-portraits to depictions of family and people in his inner circle to idyllic landscapes and color-saturated scenes, Hockney’s works continue to fascinate viewers. In more than 60 years of making art, he has made many memorable pictures, playing with the elasticity of space and time as well as texture, color and light.

Jasper52 spotlights women photographers Feb. 18

Jasper52 will host a gravure and photolithography sale on Tuesday, Feb. 18, that boasts some of the most significant women in the history of photography history. The famous Child With Toy Hand Grenade by Diane Arbus, groundbreaking photo-journalism by Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White, and a stunning magnolia blossom photo by Imogen Cunningham, are just a small sample of the treasures in this sale.

Diane Arbus, ‘Child With Toy Hand Grenade, Central Park, NYC, 1962,’ photolithograph printed in 1972, 8.35 x 8.45in, heat wax mounted on 11x14in conservation board. Estimate: $125-$200. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Famous photographers’ images showcased at auction Nov. 26

Jasper52 will conduct an online auction of gravures and photolithographs that showcases an array of important photographers and the iconic images they captured through the 20th century. The sale is filled with clean, well-printed images shot by renowned photographers. Combined with the limited-edition lithos, this auction contains both beautiful and hard to find prints.

Edward Steichen, ‘The Flatiron Building – Evening, New York, 1905,’ gravure printed in Switzerland in 1963, 7.6 in x 9.5in mounted on 11in x 14in conservation board. Estimate: $175-$275. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Ansel Adams – an iconic American photographer

NEW YORK – The first half of the 20th century produced many fine American photographers, but few with the name recognition and respect accorded Ansel Adams (1902-1984). The landscape photographer and environmentalist was famous for his crisp and dramatic black and white images of the American West. He was also a co-founder of Group f/64, an association of photographers that advocated for “pure” photography, favoring sharp focus and the use of a photo’s full tonal range.

“Part of the attraction of Ansel Adams is the star power,” said Nigel Russell, director of Photographs at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. “He got that name recognition by being the first 20th century photographer to capture the majesty of the American West in pure black and white crystal-clear photographs, in contrast to the pictorial soft-focus photography that was popular in the 1920s. His photographs were never simple landscapes; they were taken at dawn or dusk, or as storms approached, and have a drama that is lacking in other photographers’ work.”

Ansel Adams, ‘Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, 1937. Sold for $47,500 at an auction held June 5 by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Teas. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Russell expressed admiration for Adams’s resumé and accomplishments. “He was on the board of the Sierra Club and worked with the Department of the Interior to help expand the National Park system,” Russell said. “There was an exhibition of his work at Stieglitz’s An American Place gallery in New York in 1936 and he was an adviser on the founding of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. Through his workshops Adams also taught many photographers who followed in his footsteps but none have achieved the public recognition.”

As for market demand, Russell said Adams’ photographs enjoyed a steady increase in value from the start of the photography art market in the 1970s up until the Great Recession of 2008. “Since then, while many other photographs went down in price, Adams’ photographs for the most part have retained their value,” he said. “There continues to be demand for his most desirable images and I would imagine they’ll slowly increase in value over time. If I were to make any predictions it would be that there might be a softening of the market for his less appealing works and the strongest increase in value will be for the rarer early prints or prints in unusually large sizes.”

Ansel Adams, ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico,’ 1941, sold for $50,000 at an auction held April 5, 2014 by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Adams was born into privilege, the only child of Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray. He was named after his uncle, Ansel Easton. His paternal grandfather founded a successful lumber business that his father later managed, but which Adams condemned because it contributed to the cutting down of many of the great redwood forests. His early years were spent living in San Francisco, and he was 4 years old when the 1906 earthquake struck the city. Adams had his nose broken in the quake, requiring him to be a mouth breather for the rest of his life.

The following year the family moved a few miles away, to just south of the Presidio Army Base. The home had a spectacular view of the Golden Gate and Marin Headlands, which sparked the young Adams’s interest and appreciation of nature and beauty. He was given his first camera – an Eastman Kodak Brownie box camera – while on a family trip to Yosemite National Park, in 1916, at age 14. It would be the first of many subsequent trips to Yosemite for Adams, where he took many of his most famous photographs, ones that are still admired and coveted by collectors.

Ansel Adams, ‘Old Faithful,’ gelatin silver print mounted to card, signed in pencil on card lower right, image 13½ x 10in. Sold for $4,250 at an auction held June 29, 2019 by Clark’s Fine Art & Auctioneers in Van Nuys, Calif. Image courtesy Clark’s Fine Art & Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Remarkably, photography was not Adams’s first career choice. He loved music, and strived to be a professional pianist. He became quite good, and even taught piano to save up for a grand piano, to match his grand dreams, but ultimately his small hands limited his repertoire and he proved to be a poor accompanist. So, with some regret he relegated his piano playing to hobby status and devoted himself full-time to a life of camping, hiking and, of course, photography.

Adams’s first photographs were published in 1921, and Harry Best’s Studio began selling his Yosemite prints the following year. His early photos already showed careful composition and sensitivity to tonal balance.

Original Ansel Adams photograph, from Special Edition, ‘Photographs of Yosemite,’ signed by the artist in the lower right with initials, 9½ x 7in. Sold for $2,800 at an auction held Oct. 29, 2011 by Royka’s in Leominster, Mass. Image courtesy Royka’s and LiveAuctioneers

During the mid-1920s, the fashion in photography was pictorialism, which strove to imitate paintings with soft focus and diffused light. Adams experimented with these and other techniques and for a short time even used hand-coloring. But he stopped the practice in 1923 and by 1925 he’d rejected pictorialism altogether for a more realistic approach that relied on sharp focus, heightened contrast, precise exposure and darkroom craftsmanship.

In 1927, Adams began working with Albert Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and arts patron. Bender helped Adams produce his first portfolio in his new style, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, which included his famous image Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, taken with his Korona view camera, using glass plates and a dark red filter to heighten the tonal contrasts. One biographer called Monolith Adams’s most significant photograph because the “extreme manipulation of tonal values” was a departure from all previous photography.

Ansel Adams, ‘El Capitan, Yosemite Valley,’ print 115 of S.E.Y. No. 3. Displayed in a floating acrylic frame. Photograph measures 6¾ x 9½in. Sold for $1,400 at an auction held Feb. 25, 2017 by Scheerer Auctioneers in Fort Wayne, Ind. Image courtesy of Scheerer Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Between 1929 and 1942, Adams’s work matured and he became more established. The 1930s were an experimental and productive time for him. He expanded the technical range of his works, emphasizing detailed close-ups as well as large forms, from mountains to factories. On visits to Taos, New Mexico, Adams met and made friends with the poet Robinson Jeffers, artists John Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Paul Strand. His talkative, high-spirited nature combined with his excellent piano playing made him popular among his new artist friends.

His first book, Taos Pueblo, was published in 1930, and he put on his first solo museum exhibition – Pictorial Photographs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Ansel Adams – at the Smithsonian Institution in 1931. It featured 60 prints taken in the High Sierra and the Canadian Rockies. He received a favorable review from the Washington Post, which said, “His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods.”

Ansel Adams, ‘Jeffrey Pine on Sentinal Dome,’ silver gelatin print, 8¾ x 6¾in. Sold for $225 at an auction held Sept. 24, 2019 by Black River Auction in Pennsville, N.J. Image courtesy of Black River Auction and LiveAuctioneers

In 1941, Adams contracted with the Department of the Interior to make photographs of National Parks, Indian reservations, and other locations managed by the department, for use as mural-sized prints to decorate the department’s new building. The contract was for 180 days and was nicknamed the “Mural Project” with commissions for the U.S. Potash Co. and Standard Oil. While in New Mexico for the project, Adams photographed a scene of the moon rising above a modest village with snow-covered mountains in the background, under a dark sky. The photograph became his most famous and is titled Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

This photo of Ansel Adams, taken by J. Malcolm Greany, first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School Yearbook. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Adams continued to work tirelessly through the war years and into the 1950s, but by the ’60s he suffered from arthritis and gout and had to cut back. He died from heart disease in 1984, at age 82. Many works by Adams have been sold at auction, including a mural-size print of Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, which sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010, for $722,500. It was, and remains, the highest price ever paid for an original Ansel Adams photograph.

Leading photographers keep on rockin’ in June 11 online auction

Jasper 52 will conduct an online auction on Tuesday, June 11, of vintage photolithographs shot by some of the great rock ’n’ roll and music photographers of all time. From important photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Jim Marshall, to their iconic models such as John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin, this auction shows that in the words of Neil Young, rock ’n’ roll can never die.

Annie Leibovitz, ‘John and Yoko Ono,’ 11.6in. x14in., heat wax mounted on 14in. x 18in. conservation board. Estimate: $200-$300. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Movie stars, noted photographers linked in Jasper52 sale April 17

Movie buffs can relive the behind-the-scenes glitz and glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood with an art photography auction that will be conducted by Jasper52 on Wednesday, April 17. Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are the stars of the auction, as are photographers Ed Feingersh and Bert Hardy.

Ed Feingersh, ‘Marilyn In New York Taxi Cab,’ silver gelatin, 1955, 12in. x 16in., from an edition of 300, 1950-59. Estimate: $700-$800. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Stars come out March 13 for Hollywood’s Golden Era in Photography sale

Jasper52 will present an encore of the Golden Age of Hollywood – both on and off the silver screen – in an online auction of photo enlargements of the stars on Wednesday, March 13. Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are just a few of the iconic faces in this sale.

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ 1961, photo by Bud Fraker,
11in. x 14in. silver gelatin print. Estimate $700-$800. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Famous faces grace Jasper52 photo auction Aug. 22

More than 60 lots of original photographs will be offered in a fine art auction presented by Jasper52 on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The featured artist is British photographer John Stoddart, who has taken scores of photographs of famous faces.

John Stoddart enlarged photo contact sheet, ‘Catherine Zeta-Jones,’ 2002, edition of 20, 40in x 30in., signed bottom right. Estimate: $2,000-$2,500. Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

20th-century USA recalled in photogravures auction April 11

Twentieth-century America is the theme of a Jasper52 online auction of vintage photogravures that will be conducted Wednesday, April 11. This diverse sale focuses on photographers with an American sensibility and captures the landscapes, cities and people of the USA.

Robert Frank, ‘New York City,’ sheet-fed gravure, printed in France in 1958, 4.5 x 6.75 in. Estimate: $140-$200. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Richard Avedon: Life through the lens

“If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.” — Richard Avedon

This quote from iconic 20th-century photographer Richard Avedon speaks to the deep passion he felt toward photography. It was a passion he summoned in capturing on film the essence of people, the various experiences and emotions of life, and the evolving landscape of culture.

The Beatles Portfolio: John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, circa 1967, London, four dye-transfer prints, printed 1990, 21 5/8 x 17 3/8 in. each, signed and numbered 1/6 in ink in the margin. Sold for $600,000 at auction in October of 2011. Phillips and LiveAuctioneers image.

During his 60-year career, Avedon produced portraits of leaders and legends, including Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, Gloria Vanderbilt, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He revealed the glamorous world of fashion in its most authentic state, and, in stark contrast, the somber realities of life inside a mental institution.

One thing that is evident in Avedon’s work is that it didn’t matter if the subject was famous, infamous or unknown. From his perspective behind the lens of a camera, all were of equal importance.   

Portrait of elderly woman, borderless gelatin silver print, unmounted, 6¾ x 9¼ in. Sold for $340 during a January 2018 auction. Jasper52 and LiveAuctioneers image

Fun fact: Avedon was a pioneer in America’s mid-century advertising culture. His photography helped shape campaigns that made Calvin Klein, Revlon and Versace, among others, household names on an international scale.

Born in 1923 to parents with familial ties to fashion – one in manufacturing and the other in sales – it’s easy to see how Avedon’s interest in clothing came about. A love of photography took hold in his pre-teen years after joining New York City’s Young Men’s Hebrew Association Camera Club, according to Biography.com.

Avedon’s interest in photography continued to grow throughout his high school years, and he honed his skills after joining the Merchant Marine. He served as a photographer’s mate second class, from 1942 to 1944, assigned to shoot photo portraits for mariners’ identification cards. After fulfilling his commitment to the Merchant Marine, Avedon continued to study the mechanics of photography, both in academic settings and on the job. This resulted in a variety of opportunities that allowed him to photograph world leaders, entertainers and everyday people.

Groucho Marx, gelatin silver print, taken in 1972 and printed in 1975, signed, numbered 11/50 in ink, 15¾ x 15 in. Sold for $8,500 during an October 2011 auction. Phillips and LiveAuctioneers image

Fun Fact: Securing a job as a photographer at either Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue would have been a career pinnacle for Avedon, but he actually worked at both, for extended periods of time. His career highlights also included joining The New Yorker as its first full-time staff photographer.

After a 1955 exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, Avedon became a global name, with his photographs appearing at many other prestigious institutions around the world. They included the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, University Art Museum at Berkeley, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, as well as countless galleries.

JudyGarland exhibition portrait taken at the Palace Theater, New York, in 1951, gelatin silver matte, photographer signature on recto, 11 x 13¾ in. Sold for $3,750 during a March 2010 auction. Profiles in History and LiveAuctioneers image.

In March, an exhibition featuring 27 photos of President John F. Kennedy and family taken by Avedo, concluded at the Springfield Museum in Massachusetts. According to information on the Springfield Museum’s website, Avedon was the lone photographer granted permission to take official White House-approved photos of the Kennedy family during the time between Kennedy’s election and Inauguration Day.

From various accounts, it appears Avedon lived his life the way he had hoped he would, and it seems his death kept with the script. On Oct. 1, 2004, Avedon died from a cerebral hemorrhage – while shooting photographs for The New Yorker in Texas.

“If each photograph steals a bit of the soul, isn’t it possible that I give up pieces of mine every time I take a picture?” — Richard Avedon

Sources:

https://www.biography.com/people/richard-avedon-9193034; https://www.avedonfoundation.org/history/; https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/20/big-picture-richard-avedon-women