'DIGGING UP GLASS' FROM ILLUSTRATIONS FOR SIX FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM 1969 1969
David Hockney (1937 – )
- 1110 x 130 mm
- ETCHING AND AQUATINT
- 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.
In this set of etchings Hockney used the work of the Italian Renaissance artist Uccello as a reference point for his Princess. To suggest the passage of time in the tale the princess ages from youthful grace to middle age, as the artist said ‘I made her short-sighted and ugly, with bits of glass still around so you see her magnified’.
In this tale a King promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to whoever could climb to the top of the glass mountain. A handsome young man accepted the challenge, but the Princess decided she too would climb with him. Halfway up the Princess fell; the glass mountain opened and she vanished from sight. She had fallen into a cave where an old man with a long beard lived. For many years he kept her imprisoned and threatened her with a long knife if she did not cook and clean for him. Every night he took a ladder from his pocket and climbed to the top of the mountain, and every morning returned with gold and silver. Years passed and they became old; she called him Old Rink Rank and he called her Mother Mansrot. One day the Princess saw a chink of light from a small window and escaped. She found her father and the young man, and told them of her years away. The King ordered that the glass mountain be dug up. Old Rink Rank was found inside; but of the gold and silver there was no trace.