About this artwork
Since the early 1960s, David Hockney has sought ways to meld his modern aesthetic style with highly personalized subject matter. He started by inserting fragments of poems into his paintings, as, for example, in We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961), which integrates two lines from a Walt Whitman poem of the same title. Fifteen years later, inspired by Wallace Stevens’s “The Man with the Blue Guitar” (1937), with its themes of representation and imaginative transformation, Hockney made 10 drawings in colored inks and crayons. With the aid of master printer Aldo Crommelynck those drawings were converted into 20 mixed intaglio prints using a color-etching process initially developed for Pablo Picasso.
While not a literal illustration of Stevens’s poem, the print series The Blue Guitar interprets its themes in visual terms, and most of the images show Hockney’s love of Picasso. The print Old Guitarist juxtaposes the Art Institute’s famous painting of 1903–04 (1926.253) with later Picasso iconography. Other sheets likewise contrast Picasso’s different phases within the same image; throughout the series, Hockney distinguishes the disparate styles by using different colors.
It is perhaps Hockney’s Blue Guitar that has perpetuated the idea that Wallace Stevens was similarly inspired by Picasso’s Old Guitarist. Although Stevens was familiar with modern art and no doubt saw the painting when it was exhibited at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 1934, he insisted that no one picture inspired his famous poem.
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- David Hockney
- What Is This Picasso?, from The Blue Guitar
- United States
- Made 1976–1977
- Color etching and aquatint from two copper plates on white wove paper
- 345 × 425 mm (plate); 525 × 460 mm (sheet)
- Mrs. Solomon B. Smith Memorial Fund