'DEATH IN HARLEM' FROM A RAKE'S PROGRESS (PORTFOLIO OF SIXTEEN PRINTS) 1961-63 1961/63
David Hockney (1937 – )
- 410 x 305 MM
- Accession number
Hockney began work on the Rake’s Progress prints on his return from New York in 1961. This was his first suite of prints and was based on William Hogarth’s suite if the same title, a moral tale of a squandered life told in eight copper-plate engravings published in 1735. Hockney’s intention had been to make eight etchings for his own series following Hogarth’s original titles, but it was suggested he should extend the number of prints and publish it as a book. The intention had been to make 25 etchings but this was finally reduced to 16 which he was to work on over the next two years. The book did not materialise but after Hockney had finished and proofed the plates, A Rake’s Progresswas eventually published as a limited edition portfolio by Editions Alecto in 1965. Each plate in the series is inscribed with a title and the 16 plates are numbered from plate 1 and plate 1a through to plate 8 and plate 8a, rather than from 1-16, to remain more faithful to Hogarth’s story told in eight plates.
Now transposed to New York, Hockney’s semi-autobiographical ‘rake’ is seen discovering the good life found in a more liberated society. At first all goes well for the young man: he sells prints, is accepted by the ‘good people’, bleaches his hair for the first time, frequents bars and marries. Misfortune is to befall him as he runs out of money and is shunned by the ‘good people’ His ultimate fate depicted in the final two plates is not descent into madness as in Hogarth’s tale, but into joining the mindless masses, the ‘other people’. In his Bedlam, depicted in plate 8a, the only way of distinguishing the ‘rake’ from the other robotic figures is by a small arrow above his head, he has finally been subsumed into the uniform crowd where personal identity has disappeared.