David Hockney’s Nichols Canyon Painting to sell for $35M at Phillips

Nichols Canyon, a treasured landscape by David Hockney, will go up for auction at Phillips. The painting is expected to fetch $35 million as the sale’s top lot.

Oct 26, 2020By Charlotte Davis, BA Art History
Nichols Canyon by David Hockney, 1980, via Art Market Monitor; Portrait of David Hockney by Christopher Sturman, via Esquire


A landscape painting titled Nichols Canyon (1980) by David Hockney is expected to fetch $35 million at a Phillips auction. It will go up for bid at Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on December 7th in New York. It will go on display from October 26th-November 1st at Philips in London and then also in New York and Hong Kong.


Nichols Canyon is one of the first landscape works from Hockney’s mature period, depicting Nichols Canyon in California from an aerial perspective. Featuring rich, contrasting colors and unblended brushstrokes, the composition shows the influence of Fauvist and Cubist styles.


You look at the painting and you really meander with him on the road, through space and time. He stands color-wise clearly with Matisse and van Gogh. It’s as Matisse as you can get,” said Deputy Chairman and Worldwide Co-Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Jean-Paul Engelen, “Space-wise, you see the same aerial view that Picasso painted in 1965.”


Background On Nichols Canyon

Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio by David Hockney, 1980, via LACMA


Nichols Canyon marks an important shift in David Hockney’s oeuvre as it is the first painting in a panoramic landscape series lasting decades. It came after David Hockney had taken a break from painting to focus on photography in the 1970s, signaling his reimmersion into painting. It was produced alongside Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio (1980), which now resides in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).


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Nichols Canyon has been in the hands of a private owner for nearly 40 years, having most recently been purchased from its current owner in 1982. The piece was traded by Hockney alongside a double portrait titled The Conversation (1980) for a Picasso painting worth $135,000 with dealer André Emmerich.


The owner has loaned out Nichols Canyon to several major exhibitions and locations, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hockney Paints the Stage, San Francisco Museum of Art; David Hockney: A Retrospective, Tate Gallery, London; and David Hockney, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


I have been obsessed with this painting for years, and now it’s here,” said Engelen, “He was driving every day to Santa Monica Boulevard where he had his studio…California is very different from Yorkshire, so in the 1970s, he’s trying to capture space with all these photography projects. I think these are the two most important landscapes of his career.”


David Hockney: 20th-Century Powerhouse

A Bigger Splash by David Hockney, 1967, via Tate, London


David Hockney is an English contemporary artist who is one of the most influential living art figures of the 20th century. His work is associated with the Pop Art movement,  but he also experimented with other 20th-century styles and media including Cubism, landscape art, photo collage, printmaking and opera posters. He is known for his series of paintings depicting swimming pools which depict the mundanity and simplicity of everyday life. David Hockney studied under Francis Bacon but also credits Picasso and Henri Matisse as major influences on his artistic career.

David Hockney has recently had two major art retrospectives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Tate Britain in London. His work has also sold for large sums at auction in recent years. His Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures; 1972) sold for a record-breaking $90.3 million at Christie’s New York in 2019. His double-portrait Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) also sold for £37.7 million ($49.4 million) in 2019 at Christie’s London. Last week, London’s Royal Opera House sold a 1971 portrait of Sir David Webster by David Hockney at Christie’s London for $16.8 million.

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By Charlotte DavisBA Art HistoryCharlotte is a contributing writer from Portland, Oregon now based in London, England. I’m an art historian with extensive knowledge in art history, classics, ancient art and archaeology.