A SCULPTURE that legendary artist David Hockney gifted to a Thorpe Bay couple who gave him shelter during a storm 68 years ago is now set to fetch more than £94,000 at auction.
The artist, known across the world for his work, gave the rare ceramic model to Peter Richards and his wife, who has since passed, after they offered him and pal Norman Stevens sanctuary from a heavy storm in 1955.
Hockney went on to maintain a long-lasting friendship with the Richards.
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 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. Now, Mr Richards, of Thorpe Bay, is in his 90s and has decided to sell the cat to benefit the younger members of his family.
Other ceramic cats that have come to market have fetched £40k at Bonhams in 2011, and another garnered £94k 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 bizarre story of how Mr Richards and his late wife were given the ceramic cat began on a rainy Sunday afternoon back in 1955.
At the time, Mr Richard and his wife owned a cottage alongside the A1 in Bedfordshire, and they spotted two young men sheltering under their eaves.
They gave the lads refuge while making them tea and drying their soaked clothes.
And 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 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.
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.
The cat can be viewed at The Grosvenor Gallery, in St Jame's, London between October 9. They will also be on view at Stacey’s Auction Room in Great Baddow, Chelmsford, on October 21 and 22.
The sale will be held on October 23.