Hockney review in today's London Evening Standard

Prints are absent from Tate Britain’s Hockney retrospective, opening next week, so this is a welcome show. It gathers etchings made in his shift from precocious student to professional artist, crucial works in his trajectory: through them, he realised he could make a living as an artist.

Indeed, Hockney pictures himself selling prints to William Lieberman at the Museum of Modern Art in his version of Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, 16 prints documenting a 1961 New York trip — the supreme accomplishment of his early etchings. They brim with technical flair and chutzpah and a lyrically expressed personal content. In his first print he paid homage to his heroes, poet Walt Whitman and Mahatma Gandhi, picturing his awkward self beside them, scribbling “I am 23 years old and wear glasses”.

Hockney the self-confessed “seven-stone weakling” is a consistent presence, whether measuring himself against classical male beauty in a self-portrait or watching over musclebound joggers in Central Park. He grapples with and celebrates his homosexuality, in homages to Whitman and Greek poet Cavafy, in pictures of gay culture in New York and in portraits. Particularly striking is Jungle Boy, with a naked snake collector face-to-face with one of his phallic specimens. 

This dazzling display of the print- maker’s art finds Hockney at his best: boldly announcing his talent and laying his life and loves bare.

Until March 10, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert; hh-h.com