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  • Celia Seated on an Office Chair (black state) by David Hockney

Celia Seated on an Office Chair (black state) by David Hockney

Petersburg Press

Etching and Aquatint


Edition Size: 20

Image Size: 26.75 x 21.25 inches

Sheet Size: 36 x 29.5 inches


Condition: Excellent

Details — Click to read

Celia Seated on an Office Chair (black state), 1974
Plate 26.75 x 21.25 in. / 68 x 54 cm
Paper 36 x 29.5 in. / 91 x 75 cm
Hard, soft and liftground etching in black ink on BFK Rives mould made paper. Edition of 20 with 3 artist proofs: this impression 14/20. Signed and dated 74 by the artist lower right in pencil. Published by Petersburg Press.
Gilded frame 41 x 33.25 x 2 in. / 104 x 84 x 5 cm

This portrait of longtime Hockney muse Celia Birtwell balances the spontaneity of a sketch with the gravity of a formal portrait. Birtwell’s hair is a flourish of scribbled lines, while Hockney has artfully detailed the botanical patterns on her loosely-belted blouse, accented with a black tie at the v-neck. Hockney portrays the back of the office chair as a flat area of dark gray, with the composition’s darkest areas the bars of shadow on the base of the chair. Characteristic of Hockney’s portraits is a subtle blend of marks achieved through multiple printmaking processes: here, softground etching enables the artist to create soft marks that mimic crayon or pastel, artfully layered with crosshatching to produce the visceral folds of her skirt. Birtwell is an acclaimed textile and fashion designer, and Hockney clearly placed a subtle emphasis on the texture, weight, and definition of her garments. The light folds of her blouse are patterned with soft ground marks, and with equal weightlessness a long necklace depicted only with small circles. Her face, while in shadow, shines with the luminous intensity of her eyes and far-off gaze. The only indication of a background is a horizontal line towards her knees, and a window in the upper right drawn with three lines.

Hockney’s mastery of layering etching techniques and working more into certain areas can convey multitudes to a viewer: demanding them to pay attention to an area of great detail, or allow their eye to rest on a span of color or tone. Her face, for example, is drawn in great detail with the emphasis on her eyes and lips, which carry a barely visible hint of tension. Hockney takes care to convey a whimsical, bohemian sense of fashion with carefully drawn patterns and the low-slung belt. Her poised hands and regal posture are pleasantly at odds with the flurry of her hair, which conveys a sense of creativity, movement, and excitement. We are left wondering what is behind Birtwell’s distant gaze.

Celia Birtwell’s bold and feminine textile and fashion designs are inspired by the romance of art deco and the Victorian era, the natural world’s beauty, and artists such as Picasso and Matisse. The floral and botanical prints she is wearing in this portrait are a nod to her vocation—Hockney likely drew her wearing her own work. She was a cofounder of the Quorum boutique in London in 1966 with then-husband Ossie Clark and designer Alice Pollock. Immortalized in Hockney’s painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1971, the Clarks began the modern-day catwalk show as spectacle, with energetic, dancing models, hip music, and an audience packed with socialites and celebrities. Birtwell designed textiles for Clark who would cut and form the designs. They would eventually provide clothing for the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and other icons of music. Birtwell later set up her own successful shop in 1984 in Bayswater, selling textiles that can now be seen in international hotels and private residences. Hockney met Birtwell in 1968 and sat for the first time in 1969 for an ink drawing titled Celia. Since then she has sat for the artist 83 times over 5 decades.

This print is presented in a gilt frame with taupe, slub-woven linen matting.

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The Artist

David Hockney

Born in Bradford England on the 9th July 1937 David Hockney was interested in art from a very early age, and was an admirer of Fragonard, Picasso and Matisse. The fifth of six children his parents encouraged his artistic experimentation. He went to the Bradford College of Art 1953-57. To fulfil his national service, he worked in hospitals as he was a conscientious objector to war. Then in 1959 he was accepted into the Royal College of Art, Graduate school in London.

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