A signed etching from 1963, The Seven Stone Weakling is plate 3a from Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress suite. While Hockney was initially inspired by Hogarth’s series of the same name, he has modernised the subject matter and style dramatically, choosing to represent scenes from his first visit to New York in sparse and yet striking compositions. Here we find the artist standing under a tree as if sheltering from the rain. The leaves of the tree have been rendered as a cloud of red ink as if to represent autumn but the effect is also infernal, highlighting the figure’s isolation as he watches marathon runners streak by. One of the runners is topless, adding a layer of homoerotic desire to the figure’s relation to them and emphasising the artist’s feeling of inadequacy, already hinted at in the title.
Hockney first turned to printmaking while at the Royal College of Art because of the cheapness of the materials. While studying he developed his signature style through a series of monochrome etchings of which A Rake’s Progress is the culmination. With works such as these we see his talent for composing affective scenes through very little detail and a powerful use fo white space.