Depicting a view of the sun shining over the French Riviera, Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime from 1969 is said to be a tribute to Hockney’s emotional state at the height of his relationship with Peter Schlesinger and anticipates some of the artist’s greatest works.
The artwork, which has an estimate of £7 million to £10 million, will highlight Christie’s 20th and 21st Century sale in London on October 13.
It is one of four paintings based on photographs taken during a trip to France with Hockney’s then partner Mr Schlesinger in autumn 1968.
The 85-year-old Bradford-born artist had returned to London in 1968 after spending four years in California and the south of France became an instant draw for him and Mr Schlesinger and would come to play a central role in their relationship.
Boasting hues of lilac and teal to depict the rising sun over the water, the painting is situated between Hockney’s Californian swimming pool paintings and his pioneering double portraits.
A global exhibition of the piece will begin in Seoul in South Korea on September 3 to 5 before touring to Hong Kong from September 14 to 16 and New York from September 24 to 28.
The painting will then be exhibited in London from October 6 for the first time since it was originally unveiled during Hockney’s retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1970, before going on sale.
Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime was last seen at auction in New York in 1988.
This exquisite scene captures the vibrant hues that the sun casts as it rises over the glistening water of the French Riviera
Katharine Arnold, Christie’s Europe
Katharine Arnold, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s Europe, said: “In David Hockney’s Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime, we see the artist expressing his feelings of deep contentment and ease as his relationship with Peter Schlesinger was blossoming.
“This exquisite scene captures the vibrant hues that the sun casts as it rises over the glistening water of the French Riviera.”
She added: “We are delighted to present a seminal painting by one of Britain’s leading artists as a highlight of the Frieze Week auction programme at Christie’s.”
Cristian Albu, co-head of the 20th and 21st century art department at Christie’s Asia Pacific, said: “I am delighted that we will also display such a powerful painting by David Hockney in our first pre-sale exhibition in Seoul.
“As the art world congregates for Seoul’s dynamic Art Week and the inaugural edition of Frieze art fair in the city, we are sure that this magnificent, early example of Hockney’s explorations of water will resonate with collectors.”