'RAPUNZEL, RAPUNZEL, LET DOWN YOUR HAIR' FROM ILLUSTRATIONS FOR SIX FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM 1969 1969
David Hockney (1937 – )
- 25.8 X 24.3 CM
- 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.
Hockney chose this tale as it is one of the best known of stories told by the Brothers Grimm. The etching of the garden was drawn from the artist’s imagination. Unable to find an illustration of a rapunzel, and old English the vegetable known as rampion (a type of salad leaf) Hockney drew an approximation. He based other plates on old master paintings including Breughel, Bosch, da Vinci and Uccello.
In this tale a man and his wife stole succulent rapunzels from an Enchantress’s garden. One day she caught them and demanded their daughter in exchange. The Enchantress kept the child, Rapunzel, locked in a tower with only one window. Whenever she wanted to see Rapunzel she would call up
Let down your hair
And the child would lower her long golden hair and the enchantress would climb up. Some years later a Prince was riding by and as he passed near the tower he heard a beautiful voice singing. He tried to enter the tower to find the owner of the voice but could not. Then one afternoon he heard the Enchantress calling to Rapunzel. When it was dark he went to the tower and called
Let down your hair
She let down her hair and he climbed up. The Prince and Rapunzel fell in love, and each time the Prince visited he bought a coil of silk for Rapunzel to weave into a ladder so she could escape. But the Enchantress found out and cut off Rapunzel’s hair and carried her away to the desert. When the Prince next came and called to her, the Enchantress tied Rapunzel’s hair to a hook and let it down. The Prince climbed up, but when he found the Enchantress he threw himself from the window. He was not killed but his eyes were pierced by thorns. Now blind, he roamed the forest mourning the loss of Rapunzel. Many years later he came to the desert and Rapzunel saw him and called his name. As they embraced two of her tears fell onto his eyes and the Prince saw again.