A painting by David Hockney of the sun rising over the Mediterranean has been sold at auction for almost £21m, nearly three times its lower estimate.
Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime, completed by the British artist in 1969, has been owned by a private individual for more than 30 years. Estimated to fetch £7m-10m, it sold in six minutes of bidding between private buyers, according to the auction house Christie’s.
It has some way to go to beat the record for a Hockney painting. Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold for $90m (£70m at the time) in 2018, making Hockney the most highly valued living artist.
Hockney, 85, painted Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime from a photograph he took while staying at the home of the film director Tony Richardson. The port of Sainte-Maxime was visible across the bay from the hills above Saint-Tropez, where Richardson’s house was located.
Hockney and his then partner, Peter Schlesinger, were guests at the house, enjoying long lunches by the pool and late-night parties in the company of artists and writers.
“The Côte d’Azur was in its glamorous heyday. Schlesinger was Hockney’s great love, and what you see in the picture is a sense of real contentment and happiness. You can feel the joy that he felt in painting,” said Katharine Arnold, Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art Europe.
The “magical” light of the area that Hockney painted was the “same light that Matisse and Picasso fell in love with”, she added.
In recent years, Hockney has created images using an iPad, after earlier experimenting with faxes, photocopies and Polaroids.