Missing image

© David Hockney


David Hockney (1937 – )


23.1 X 26.8 CM
Accession number


In the late 1960s Hockney began preparations for the double portrait of Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (Tate Collection www.tate.org.uk), but these were put on hold for most of 1969 as he was taken up with one of his most ambitious printmaking projects: Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm. Working on illustrations of the world-famous tales collected by the German scholars and folklorists, Jakob Ludwig Karl (1778-1865) and Wilhelm Karl (1787-1859) Grimm, enabled Hockney to give full rein to his imagination. He had read all of the stories, some three hundred and fifty in total, and was attracted by the simple direct style of the writing. He had already made etchings based on the Rumpelstiltzhen story in 1961 and again in 1962, and the for the new series he planned to illustrate twelve of the tales, but finally settled on just six titles: The Little Sea Hare, Fundevogel, Rapunzel, The Boy who left Home to learn Fear, Old Rink Rank, and Rumpelstiltzhen. In all he made over 80 etchings from which 39 were published by Petersburg Press in both book and loose-leaf portfolio editions in 1970.

As with the Cavafy etchings, he largely worked directly on to the copper plates so the drawing had a more spontaneous feel. He only occasionally made preliminary drawings in order to try out ideas, and for technical reasons, for the figures in both The boy hidden in an egg and The boy hidden in a fish, two illustrations for the tale of The Little Sea Hare.

The etchings were more complex than his earlier prints and most notable was his use of the traditional engraving technique of cross-hatching which, in addition to aquatint, he used for both areas of tone and in creating dense blacks. Though it was the first time he had employed the technique for his own prints, he had been aware of it from having studied the Hogarth etchings for his Rake’s Progressalmost ten years earlier.

Hockney found this a strange sexual story, about a princess who wants a husband, but does not want a husband. Sometimes the artist interpreted the tale as a desire for a child, in the final plate he alters the narrative to fit with his interpretation. A sea-hare is a mythical creature.

In this tale a princess was endowed with the ability to see above and below the earth by looking through the windows of a tower. She declared she would only marry the man she could not see from her tower. Many men came and all failed; until the 100th man accepted the challenge. With the help of a raven he hid in an egg but was seen; with the help of a fish he hid in its belly but was seen. Finally after having removed a thorn from a fox’s paw, the fox helped the young man turn into a little sea hare. The little sea hare hid under the princess’s hair and when she looked from the tower windows he could not be seen. They married and after the wedding the young man became ruler of the kingdom.