Plate Size: 42.5 x 34.4 cm
THE BLUE GUITAR ETCHINGS
The frontispiece to the portfolio clearly enunciates 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 in Fire Island, NY, with the curator Henry Geldzahler and writer Christopher Isherwood. 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’. Stevens’s poem was inspired by Picasso’s 1903 painting ‘The Old Guitarist’ and Hockney, also a great admirer of Picasso, filled his etchings with a multitude of references to the master both in terms of imagery and style.
Hockney also followed in Picasso’s footsteps on another level; 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.
‘The Blue Guitar’ portfolio comprised twenty etchings and aquatints all drawn directly onto copper plates and etched by David Hockney during 1976 and 1977. They were each printed in up to five differently coloured inks using just one plate onto Inveresk mould-made paper. The proofs were pulled by Maurice Payne and the editions then printed from steel-faced plates in London and New York. ‘The Blue Guitar’ was published in a signed and numbered edition of 200 together with 37 artist’s proofs by Petersburg Press in October 1977.