David Hockney’s Sur La Terrasse

Year: 1971
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 274.5 x 213.5cm
Last Realised: £22.9 Million
David Hockney’s Sur La Terrasse. An acrylic painting of someone in a pink shirt standing outside on their balcony overlooking the view. Image © Christie’s / Sur La Terrasse © David Hockney 1971
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David Hockney

David Hockney

631 works

David Hockney's Sur La Terrasse is a poignant exploration of solitude and observation, rendered in acrylic on canvas. This painting depicts a contemplative moment as a figure stands on a sunlit terrace, gazing into the distance. The painting exemplifies Hockney's skill in capturing the interplay of natural and artificial light, casting intricate shadows that add depth and dimension to the scene. The composition, marked by its vibrant colour palette and attention to detail, underscores Hockney's profound ability to blend realism with a touch of the surreal.

Sur La Terrasse: Meaning & Analysis

In Sur La Terrasse, Hockney employs a vibrant and meticulous approach to composition, creating a visually captivating scene that invites viewers into a moment of quiet introspection. The painting features a lone figure, back turned to the viewer, gazing out over a landscape. The figure’s contemplative stance suggests a sense of longing or reflection, themes recurrent in Hockney’s work during this period. The lush greenery and distant palm trees evoke a sense of tropical paradise, contrasting with the cool, structured lines of the terrace and the interior space seen through the open door.

The use of colour in this piece is particularly striking as Hockney’s palette ranges from the warm tones of the terrace floor and the figure’s clothing to the cool blues and greens of the landscape. His manipulation of light and shadow further enhances the composition, with the sunlight filtering through the terrace railing, casting patterns that add a layer of complexity to the scene.

Hockney’s choice of subject matter – an intimate, seemingly private moment – reflects his broader exploration of personal and emotional themes. The figure, often interpreted as Peter Schlesinger, Hockney’s lover and muse, introduces a layer of autobiographical significance, linking the painting to the artist’s own experiences and relationships. This personal dimension, coupled with Hockney’s rendering of light and space, positions Sur La Terrasse as a poignant and multifaceted work within Hockney’s career.

Reflections on Sur La Terrasse

Sur La Terrasse illustrates Hockney’s continuous engagement with themes of space, light, and personal narrative. The painting’s nuanced depiction of a quiet, reflective moment captures a universal sense of longing and contemplation, resonating with viewers on a deeply emotional level. Its place within Hockney’s oeuvre is further cemented by its technical brilliance, showcasing his skill at blending vibrant colours with intricate light patterns to create a scene that is realistic with a dreamlike quality.

The painting’s autobiographical elements, particularly the inclusion of Peter Schlesinger, add a layer of intimacy and personal history, offering insights into Hockney’s private life and the relationships that have shaped his artistic journey. This intersection of personal narrative and technical innovation makes Sur La Terrasse a standout piece, reflecting Hockney’s ability to relay complex emotional states in his compositions.

As a work that bridges personal experience with universal themes, Sur La Terrasse continues to captivate and inspire, cementing its place as a masterpiece in contemporary portraiture and landscape painting. Its appeal lies in its ability to evoke a sense of place and emotion, making it a significant contribution to the broader art world and a testament to Hockney’s legacy.

Sur La Terrasse Exhibition History

New York, David Hockney: Paintings and Drawings, André Emmerich Gallery, May 1972

Paris, La Peinture Anglaise Aujourd'hui, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, February 1973

London, David Hockney: A Retrospective, Tate Gallery, February 1988

Los Angeles, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 2013

San Francisco, David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, de Young Museum, October 2013

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