'Hockney's that aren't only for the rich' by Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph
The Tate’s forthcoming retrospective ignores the artist’s prints – but the market for them is thriving, says Colin Gleadell
A major retrospective exhibition for David Hockney at Tate Britain next month promises to cover “the full scope of his artistic practice” – drawings, paintings, photography, and video. But, much to the dismay of print enthusiasts, this medium, which he has always taken extremely seriously as an art form, is to be excluded.
This is a shame, because his prints evolved side by side with his painting and drawing. During his teens, Hockney produced the occasional lithograph, but fully engaged with print-making through etching when he was a student at the Royal College of Art from 1959 to 1962.
He was so poor, the story goes, that he could not afford painting materials. But when he discovered that materials were free in the print department, he made himself at home there, producing etchings as distinctive and brilliant as his paintings and drawings, characterised by their assured lines and intentional smudging, mixing graffiti with faux-naive figuration for his autobiographical subject matter.
However, while the Tate will not be covering this chapter of his work, a commercial gallery will. And it will be the first time that examples of every print he made between 1961 and his move to Los Angeles in 1964 will have been shown together. Assembled by print dealer Lyndsey Ingram, the exhibition opens at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in St James’s on Feb 2, a few days before the Tate opening.
Hockney treated etching like drawing. Several early works are not numbered because they are unique. In 1961, he won a £100 etching prize, which allowed him to make his first trip to America. The winning print, Three Kings and a Queen, is one of the exhibits. When he came to make his version of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, one of the prints, Receiving the Inheritance, shows Hockney on this trip offering a $20 art work to Bill Liebermann of the Met, who comes back with a stingy offer of $18.
These early etchings mark an innovative break with the past. Hockney’s use of black and red aquatint for his etchings was revolutionary, says Ingram, as were his depictions of himself as a gay man…
Image: Jungle Boy Etching and aquatint, 1964.