Hockney, David
A Rake's Progress: The complete set of 16 prints
c 1961
etchings
49.0 x 61.0 cms

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The rare complete set of David Hockney's major early series of printsDavid Hockney travelled to America for the first time in 1961. On his return he started working on A Rakes Progress telling about his experiences in America.The series has its origin with the famous series of engravings by William Hogarth (1697-1764). Hockneys idea was to take Hogarths titles and to do a series of eight etchings, transfering Hogarths series to New York in modern times. Like Hogarth he wanted to tell a story visually without text. Before he finished his series in 1963 Hockney added eight more plates on the demand of his publishers and travelled to New York another time. In A Rakes Progress Hockney shows his autobiographical - fictional character as a young provincial lad dazzled by the big city he encounters. This lad looks shyly at the monuments, the places and the people he meets. "Rich in wry observations both about himself and his experiences, these prints provide a dense visual metaphor of Hockneys consciousness about his growing fame, about the possibilities of redefining himself through his art, and about the potential dangers lying in wait for him. On his arrival in the big city he is still very much the innocent lad from the provinces, dazzled by the sophistication which he encounters. Yet only moments after setting down his suitcase, he is faced with the humiliation of setting a price on his most cherished efforts: a collector bargains with him to obtain a ten per cent discount on Myself and My Heroes. Even after transforming his appearance with the aid of a bottle of hair dye, in order to test the advertising adage that blondes have more fun, he remains insecure about his appearance when faced with the physical beauty of two athletes. The combined influence of drink and a marriage of convenience set the scene for hid eventual downfall by which he is cast aside and finally relegated to a technological Bedlam in the second, imaginary, half of this cautionary tale". (quoted from: Marco Livingstone, David Hockney, Etchings and Lithographs, Waddington, London 1988, p.12)In his conversations with Nikos Stangos, 1976 in "David Hockney by David Hockney" Hockney spoke about his first trip to America: "I won a prize of a hundred pounds for Three Kings and a Queen, from Robert Erskine who ran a print gallery. It was amazing! I just got the cheque through the post. I didnt even know the exhibition was on. Id just arranged, before that, to go to America in the summer, which was something very special to me. First of all, to be able to go away in the summer without taking a job was something. Somebodyd offered me this ticket for ten pounds, and I was to pay another thirty pounds later: I hadnt got the thirty pounds, but I had the ten, and I thought, well, take it. And then I got this hundred pounds! I took with me a hundred and ten pounds to New York for three months. That was summer 1961. Going was more of an accident, being offered the ticket. Before that I thought it cost a thousand pounds to cross the Atlantic, way beyond me".Erskine encouraged Hockney to take some of his prints with him and to meet William Lieberman at the Museum of Modern Art who bought all of them to Hockneys great astonishment:" I got about two hundred dollars, which was a lot of money for me, and I bought a suit, an American suit, and bleached my hair. The only artist I met was Claes Oldenburg, at the Green Gallery: he was putting up an exhibition".The life of the city was very stimulating, the gay bars " there werent many in those days; it was a marvellously lively society. I was utterly thrilled by it, all the time I was excited by it".This early trip to America had a profound effect on the artist, who within a few years was to move there on a more permanent basis. This important series of etchings epitomises Hockneys early style and must be considered amongst the major series of prints produced in the second half of the twentieth century.

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David Hockney  - A Rake's Progress: The complete set of 16 prints