David Hockney: Print Room II

The Blue Guitar Portfolio

RedHouse Originals is delighted to present David Hockney: Print Room; a small collection of rare original prints by one of the world’s most influential living artists.

The works are taken from three series; Some New Prints (1993), Sunflowers (1995) and The Blue Guitar (1976-77), illustrating Hockney’s distinct and eclectic style, in addition to his well-documented passion for printmaking.

Hockney explores landscape and perspective in the Some New Prints series; his return to America in the early 1990s is celebrated in three bold and dynamic works ‘Going Out’, ‘Ink In The Room’ and ‘Blue Hang Cliff’. The rolling mountains of California are paired with colours inspired by the close by Latin American border, signposting an assured return to graphic work, following numerous projects in theatre and photography.

“You can see in (the mountains), the violence of nature that at one time made that thrust, and also the calm of nature, now that the thrust has ceased.”
David Hockney

The influences of Cubism and Pablo Picasso are prominent, Hockney perhaps inspired by the freedom one can achieve with paint and print, following the more rigid temperament of film photography. It was also a time of great exploration in terms of colour, medium and scale. Hockney began sketching on much smaller canvases, which gave him, “greater freedom to invent shapes”.

The artist’s fascination with Picasso is further documented in works from the series The Blue Guitar: Etchings By David Hockney Who Was Inspired By Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired By Pablo Picasso. Throughout his career Hockney has increasingly acknowledged the influence of Picasso’s art, and notion of creative freedom. Between 1973 and 1975 he spent most of his time in Paris where he began making etchings at Atelier Crommelynck, founded by the brothers Aldo and Peiro Crommelynck, with whom Picasso had also made prints during the last twenty years of his life.

In the first three months of working at the studio, Hockney learned many etching techniques he had not known or been able to master before, including a successful way of using the ‘sugar-lift’ process. A variation on the traditional aquatint method, sugar-lift enables the artist to work directly on the plate with a brush using a mixture of sugar and a water-soluble medium. It is a very spontaneous way of working, much favoured by Picasso, and once processed, etched and printed; the plate can hold the tonal range of the original brush marks. Crommelynck also taught Hockney his own method of making coloured etchings using just one plate rather than having to register separate plates for each colour. It was to prove something of a revelation and was a technique employed in The Blue Guitar.

The etchings for this suite were inspired by the poem ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar’ by the American poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955). Written in 1936, the poem had in turn been inspired by the Picasso Blue Period painting of ‘The Old Guitarist’ (1903), and is concerned with the complex relationship between art and life, imagination and the interpretation of reality. This is illustrated exquisitely with the lead image and perhaps Hockney’s most direct homage to Picasso ‘The Old Guitarist’.

He had first read the poem in the summer of 1976 and made a series of drawings which were to lead to the etchings. He had not intended that they should be literal illustrations but rather interpretations of the verse. The prints are filled with references to Picasso, and in both the vast array of imagery and styles, coupled with the technical virtuosity employed by Hockney; the prints are a homage to the Spanish master. He made a total of 20 etchings, each printed in a selection of five colours using the Crommelynck technique, which were published in limited portfolio editions by Petersburg Press in October 1977.

“The etchings themselves were not conceived as literal illustrations of the poem but as an interpretation of its themes in visual terms. Like the poem, they are about transformations within art as well as the relation between reality and the imagination, so these are pictures within pictures and different styles of representation juxtaposed and reflected and dissolved within the same frame.”
David Hockney

The works will go on display from 9th March 2018.

‘That’s The Way I See It’, David Hockney, published by Thames & Hudson (1993)
The Blue Guitar. Etchings by David Hockney Who Was Inspired by Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired by Pablo Picasso’, David Hockney, published by Petersburg Press, London (1977)