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The Blue Guitar

‘The Blue Guitar’ portfolio contains twenty etchings drawn by David Hockney in London in the Autumn of 1976 and Spring of 1977. The frontispiece to the portfolio clearly demonstrates Hockney’s dual inspirations for his ‘Blue Guitar’ suite: 'Etchings by David Hockney who was inspired by Wallace Stevens who was inspired by Pablo Picasso’.

Hockney discovered Wallace Stevens’s 1936 poem ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar’ in the Summer of 1976 while holidaying on Fire Island, NY, with the curator Henry Geldzahler and writer Christopher Isherwood. However, Steven’s poem was itself inspired by ‘The Old Guitarist’, from Picasso’s blue period. Hockney, paying tribute to the great Picasso, filled his etchings with a multitude of references to the master, both in terms of imagery and style.

 Hockney described how the ‘etchings themselves were not conceived as literal illustrations of the poem but as an interpretation of its themes in visual terms. Like the poem, they are about transformations within art as well as the relation between reality and the imagination, so these are pictures and different styles of representation juxtaposed and reflected and dissolved within the same frame’.

Hockney further followed in Picasso’s footsteps through his choice of new etching techniques. Hockney was living in Paris between 1973 and 1975 and worked extensively during this period at the Atelier Crommelynck, where Picasso had made prints during the final two decades of his life. Aldo Crommelynck introduced Hockney to both the use of the sugar-lift technique, which enabled him to recreate brush marks on the etched plate, and the use of a single plate for multi-coloured etchings rather than having to register separate plates for each colour. Both of these techniques were revelations for Hockney and proved essential to the genesis of his ‘Blue Guitar’ prints.

 

Portfolio of twenty etching printed in colour, 1977, on Inveresk mould-made paper, signed and numbered by the artist pencil and stamped on the reverse with the title, from the edition of 200 plus 35 proofs, printed in London and New York at the Petersburg Studios and published by Petersburg Press.

 

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