'THE OLD GUITARIST' FROM THE BLUE GUITAR (PORTFOLIO OF TWENTY PRINTS) 1976-77 1977
David Hockney (1937 – )
- 52.3 X 45.7 CM
- HARDGROUND ETCHING AND AQUATINT
- Accession number
Between 1973 and 1975, Hockney 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 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 1903 The Old Guitarist (in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago www.artic.edu, and is concerned with the complex relationship between art and life, imagination and the interpretation of reality. Hockney 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. Picasso's blue period painting of a blind musician is reproduced in aquatint amidst references to other works by Picasso in various styles. 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.