It was a print given to the local chippy by an arty, black-haired teenager who lived round the corner and for many years it was proudly displayed in the most obvious place: above the fryers.
More than five decades later, David Hockney’s important early lithograph Fish and Chip Shop is to be sold by Christie’s in London next month.
Murray Macauley, the auction house’s head of prints, said it is an important and rare object given added poignancy by its back story.
“There is something wonderful about a local chippy with a rare Hockney hanging above the fryer,” Macauley said.
The 17-year-old Hockney was studying at the Bradford School of Art when his regular visits to the Sea Catch fish and chip shop in Eccleshill provided some inspiration.
The artwork shows a smart young Hockney, pre-peroxide, leaning on the counter as his food is prepared by owners Hayden and Janet Smith, who were friends and neighbors of the Hockney family.
Hockney made five or six prints and, as a token of his appreciation, gave one to the Smiths, who displayed it above the fryers — “not that advisable for a work on paper,” Macauley said — until the shop’s closure in 1970.
Fish and Chip Shop was one of three lithographs Hockney made in 1954 and was an early foray into printmaking, something which became an important part of his career.
Macauley said it was a wonderful image, although not one bursting with the vibrant colors for which Hockney, the subject of a retrospective at Tate Britain, is known.
“This is before he has been to America and his palette is much more subdued, but quite warm and appealing. I think it has the early beginnings of what marks him out as a great artist; so much of his art is about people and people who are significant to him. It is a thread that has run throughout his career,” Mcauley said.
The print was displayed proudly in the Smith family home after they retired and has been passed down through the family.
It has an estimate of ￡6,000 to ￡8,000 (US$7,500 to US$10,000) and is to be sold on March 29.
Macauley hopes the emergence of the print will rekindle memories from people who went to the same chip shop.
“I wonder if customers of the Sea Catch remember it hanging there when they were getting their fish and chips. Did they think it was special? Or was it a familiar picture of an everyday Bradford scene by David, Laura and Kenneth’s artistic son? It would be great to hear some recollections,” he said.
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