Hockney was hugely influenced by the erotic verse of C.P. Cavafy, an openly gay Egyptian-Greek poet writing in the late 19th and early 20th century.
As the young Hockney become more open about his own burgeoning homosexuality, the subject began to appear more clearly in his work and Cavafy’s poems offered a perfect companion for Hockney’s tenderly erotic scenes. Having decided to make this series of etchings, Hockney travelled to Beruit in 1966 to live amongst a culture and people similar to that which had inspired Cavafy many decades earlier. During this time, he worked on a group of drawings that would ultimately lead to the making of this portfolio.
Hockney also commissioned a new translation of Cavafy’s poems to accompany his etchings.
Published in 1967, this series of openly gay imagery directly coincides with the passing of a parliamentary act that finally decriminalised homosexuality.