Hockney, David (b.1937), 'The Wallet Begins to Empty', Etching and Aquatint, 1961-63

'The Wallet Begins to Empty', Etching and Aquatint, 1961-63

Please Note: This item is not for sale.
Signed and numbered in pencil. From the edition of 50, there were also 10 proofs. Printed on Barcham Green handmade paper by C.H.Welch, London.

Published by Editions Alecto in 1963 (sheet bears their blindstamp).

This piece depicts the rake, shoulders hunched and feeling sorry for himself, being banished from New York as his coffers have run dry, no longer able to even afford the 50 cent entry fee. He is being rejected by two of the characters who had previously welcomed him with open arms in two earlier etchings from the series: Mahalia Jackson the gospel singer (plate 2a) and William Lieberman the curator of the Museum of Modern Art (plate 1a). This composition, with its perspectival descending staircase, references works by Hockney’s artistic forebears, William Blake and Doré, recalling an ominous scene from Dante’s Inferno.


‘A Rake’s Progress’ is Hockney’s first and most celebrated print series. On his 24th birthday, Hockney set out to New York on what was to be one of the most thrilling and pivotal journeys of his early career. The set of sixteen etchings takes as it’s starting point Hogarth’s 1732 series of eight paintings of the same title, which depict the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell from riches to madness. Hockney would have seen this much-lauded group in the collection of London’s John Soane museum, where they still reside. Hockney recalled, “My original intention was…to take Hogarth’s titles and somehow play with them and set it in New York in modern times. What I liked was telling a story just visually”. ‘A Rake’s Progress’ was produced over a two year period, from 1961 to 1963 and were published to great acclaim by Editions Alecto in association with the Royal College of Art in December 1963.


Image Size 30.2 x 40.3 cm
Paper Size 49 x 57.9 cm
Reference Tokyo 23
Collections Tate Gallery, London; V & A, London; MOMA, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra