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A self-proclaimed ‘Literary Artist,’ Hockney’s Illustrations for Six Fairytales from the Brothers Grimm are among some of his most popular etchings. P. Cavafy, David Hockney’s Illustrations For Six Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm are among the artist’s best known etchings. Conceived over three years and published in 1969 they showcase the artist’s ingenuity for composition, his charm as a draughtsman and his mastery of the medium of print.
As with the aforementioned series, the Brothers Grimm prints are characterised by their mostly blank backgrounds, which in 1969 presented a break from his painting style where an almost photographic naturalism was beginning to take hold. The fairytale subjects allowed him to work with a more playful style, and experiment with soft ground technique which meant he could make marks as if he were merely drawing on paper. He also made use of aquatint for shading which allowed him to bring darker and lighter tones into works such as The Lake and The Boy Hidden in an Egg.
The series is also characterised by extensive cross hatching which allowed him to achieve a deeper black, and is a technique Hockney is said to have picked up not just from Hogarth but also Giorgio Morandi’s prints. These various techniques are another way in which Hockney ‘quotes’ the masters that came before him. Whether it’s Matisse in a still life or Picasso in a portrait, his works of art are always looking back as well as out at the viewer, their artifice brought to the fore by conscious referencing and overt display of technique.