'THE SEXTON DISGUISED AS A GHOST' FROM ILLUSTRATIONS FOR SIX FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM 1969 1969
David Hockney (1937 – )
- 268 x 230 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.
This was one of the few stories Hockney did not know before be began reading, and the imagery within the tale presented the artist with a number of challenges. Some of the imagery was suggested by horror films, the works by the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte and a painting of St Teresa by Carpaccio in the Accademia in Venice.
In this tale a farmer had two sons. The older son was hard working and clever, the younger son whilst stupid and good for nothing was utterly fearless; indeed his only wish in life was to learn to shudder with fear. He was granted his wish and was sent to meet with ghosts and ghouls: first the sexton disguised as a ghost to spending the night with corpses taken down from the gallows to be warmed by a fire, all without a shudder of fear. His fearlessness came to the attention of the King who promised his daughter’s hand in marriage if the younger son could spend three nights in the haunted castle. After enduring three nights of mayhem and horror without a shudder of fear, the younger son and princess married. Although he lived happily with the princess, he still wished he could shudder with fear. One night the princess’s maid crept into his room, pulled back the blankets and threw a bucketful of cold squirming fish onto the sleeping man who woke with a start, and a shudder a fear.