Celia Observing (black state) is a signed etching on BFK Rives paper by David Hockney, depicting his lifelong friend and muse Celia Birtwell. Captured in full-length, the woman sits in a relaxed pose on a large armchair, looking wistfully ahead.
Unlike Celia In A Wicker Chair (black state), an etching depicting the woman in a similar style and pose, the model here does not meet the artist’s gaze. As so frequently in Hockney’s works portraying the famous fashion designer, the scene conveys the atmosphere of intimacy. Although the title of the work links it to the process of observation, the woman appears preoccupied with her personal thoughts rather than the act of looking alone. A book tossed casually beside the armchair deepens the meditative dimension of the scene, reminding the viewer about Hockney’s interest in the emotions and inner world of his sitters.
The artist commented in this context: ‘I think the way I draw, the more I know and react to people, the more interesting the drawings will be. I don’t really like struggling for a likeness. [...] If you don’t know the person, you don’t really know if you’ve got the likeness at all.’ As such, the print represents one of Hockney’s many dialogues with tradition, especially the rich lineage of artists including Matisse and Degas whose depictions of women in domestic spaces expose the intimacy of introspection.