1977 David Hockney (1937 − )

Between 1973 and 1975, Hockney spent most of his time in Paris where he began making etchings at Atelier Crommelynck, founded by the brothers Aldo and Peiro Crommelynck with whom Picasso had made prints during the last twenty years of his life. In the first three months of working at the studio, Hockney learned many etching techniques he had not known or been able to master before, including a successful way of using the ‘sugar-lift’ process. A variation on the traditional aquatint method, sugar-lift enables the artist to work directly on the plate with a brush using a mixture of sugar and a water-soluble medium. It is a very spontaneous way of working, much favoured by Picasso, and once processed, etched and printed; the plate can hold the tonal range of the original brush marks. Crommelynck also taught Hockney his own method of making coloured etchings using just one plate rather than having to register separate plates for each colour. It was to prove something of a revelation and was a technique employed in The Blue Guitar.

The etchings for this suite were inspired by the poem The Man with the Blue Guitar by the American poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955). Written in 1936, the poem had in turn been inspired by the Picasso Blue Period painting of 1903 The Old Guitarist (in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago www.artic.edu, and is concerned with the complex relationship between art and life, imagination and the interpretation of reality. Hockney had first read the poem in the summer of 1976 and made a series of drawings which were to lead to the etchings. He had not intended that they should be literal illustrations but rather interpretations of the verse. The prints are filled with references to Picasso, and in both the vast array of imagery and styles, coupled with the technical virtuosity employed by Hockney; the prints are a homage to the Spanish master. Picasso's blue period painting of a blind musician is reproduced in aquatint amidst references to other works by Picasso in various styles. He made a total of 20 etchings, each printed in a selection of five colours using the Crommelynck technique, which were published in limited portfolio editions by Petersburg Press in October 1977.



  • Accession Number P4029
  • Dimensions 52.3 X 45.7 CM

Glossary (5)

  • Aquatint

    An intaglio printmaking process and a method of achieving tone by etching a plate covered with resin dust. The acid corrodes the unprotected metal leaving only the surface protected by a speck of dust. When inked the plate will print a tone of black through to very pale grey depending on the length of time it was immersed in the acid. Its name derives from the finished print resembling a watercolour, and is a tonal rather than a linear work.

  • Etching

    An intaglio process whereby a metal plate (normally copper, zinc or steel) is covered with an acid-resistant layer of rosin mixed with wax. With a sharp point, the artist draws through this ground to reveal the plate beneath. The plate is then placed in an acid bath (a water and acid solution) and the acid bites into the metal plate where the drawn lines have exposed it. The waxy ground is cleaned off and the plate is covered in ink and then wiped clean, so that ink is retained only in the etched lines. The plate can then be printed through an etching press. The strength of the etched lines depends on the length of time the plate is left in the acid bath.

  • Medium

    Refers to either the material used to create a work of art, craft or design, i.e. oil, bronze, earthenware, silk; or the technique employed i.e. collage, etching, carving. In painting the medium refers to the binder for the pigment, e.g. oil, egg, acrylic dispersion. The plural form is media.

  • Painting

    Work of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is a tightly stretched piece of canvas, paper or a wooden panel. Painting involves a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's intellectual concerns effecting the content of a work.

  • Portfolio

    A set of pictures (as drawings, photographs or prints) either bound in book form or loose in a folder. These can be by the same artist or individual works by a selection of artists. The term also refers to the folder which holds the set.

Past exhibitions


  • 2012
    • Scotland, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art
    • UK, London, Tate Britain


  • 2011
    • Korea, Seoul, National University Museum
  • 2007
    • Lithuania, Siauliai, Dailes Galerija
  • 2006
    • Lithuania, Klaipeda, Klaipeda Exhibition House
    • Lithuania, Kaunas, Ciulrionis Museum
  • 2005
    • Greece, Athens, Benaki Museum
  • 2004
    • Chile, Santiago, Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes
    • Colombia, Bogota, Mambo
  • 2002
    • Italy, Rome, Istituzione Nazionale Per La Grafica
    • France, Forcalquier, Couvent Des Cordeliers


  • 1992
    • Ecuador, Cuenca, Museum Of Modern Art
    • Ecuador, Guayaquil, Museum Of Nahim Isaias
    • Ecuador, Quito, Art Forum
    • Ecuador, Loja, Central Bank Museum
  • 1990
    • Brazil, Brazil
  • 1989
    • Canada, Canada
  • 1984
    • Belgium, Belgium
  • 1982
    • Denmark, Denmark
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