David Hockney: Sculpture gifted to couple by Yorkshire artist set to fetch almost £100,000 at auction

A sculpture David Hockney gifted to a couple who gave him shelter during a storm 68 years ago is now set to fetch over £94,000 at auction.

The legendary artist gave the rare ceramic model to Peter Richards and his wife after they offered him and pal Norman Stevens sanctuary from a heavy storm in 1955. The couple owned a cottage alongside the A1 in Bedfordshire, and on a rainy Sunday afternoon, they spotted two young men sheltering under their eaves.

They gave the lads refuge while making them tea and drying their soaked clothes. Later, they found out that they were two students, David Hockney and Norman Stevens, from Bradford College of Art, who were hitchhiking to London to visit exhibitions. Hockney went on to maintain a long-lasting friendship with the Richards.

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He later gifted them the ceramic black and white cat, which looked similar to their pet moggy at the time, as a reward for their kindness on that wet afternoon.

The rare black-and-white ceramic cat, created by David Hockney in 1955.The rare black-and-white ceramic cat, created by David Hockney in 1955.
The rare black-and-white ceramic cat, created by David Hockney in 1955.

The sculpture - which it's believed could be Hockney's first ceramic creation - is one of six cats produced by the artist in 1955 whilst still at art school It measures 34.5cm by 40cm by 15.5cm and demonstrates his incredible skill with three-dimensional forms.

The piece also comes with drawings and plans for the item, along with letters and cards sent to the Richards by the artist over the years. Hockney has long had a fascination with cats, and they have been a significant motif in some of his major works. But this ceramic cat is black and white and has a different colouring compared to the other five in existence.

Peter Richards, of Thorpe Bay, Essex, is now in his 90s and has decided to sell the cat to benefit the younger members of his family.

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Other ceramic cats that have come to market have fetched £40,000 at Bonhams in 2011, and another garnered £94,000 at Christie's in June. Stacey's Auctioneers & Valuers, who are putting the item on sale, believe it could command a higher value due to its rarity.

The cat and other items can be viewed at The Grosvenor Gallery between October 9 and 13 to coincide with Frieze Masters London. They will also be on view at Stacey's Auction Room, Chelmsford, Essex, on October 21 and 22. The sale will be held on October 23.