A Rake’s Progress David Hockney
Find out more about David Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
David Hockney’s take on Hogarth’s celebrated series of prints represents a masterpiece of the artist’s early career. Produced in 1963 A Rake’s Progress comprises sixteen etchings that took two years to complete. Published in an edition of 50 by Alecto they were immediately popular with critics for their experimentation with form and composition and confirmed Hockney as an artist of note.
Hogarth’s 1733 series mocked the life of a ‘rake’ who squanders his inherited wealth in gambling dens and brothels before marrying an heiress and eventually ending up in Bedlam. Reproduced in colourful scenes with richly depicted characters and interiors, the prints have all the drama of a soap opera, resulting in a car crash like quality that is hard to turn away from. Hockney’s version of this morality tale is somewhat lighter in subject, depicting the artist’s first trip to New York, and yet it is not without its own darkness.
Where Hogarth’s scenes are packed with detail and realism, here Hockney subverts tradition by offering simple pared back compositions that show a figure that couldn't be any further removed from the young heir of Hogarth's series. While ornament and detail are kept to a minimum Hockney does inject colour into his version, with bold plumes of red adding impact to works such as The Arrival and The Wallet Begins to Empty. Elsewhere the artist’s use of red pulls the viewer’s eye into the scene through text – as in the speech bubble of The Election Campaign – and the sign for the bar in The Drinking Scene.
Hockney began working with etching while at the Royal College of Art and this series, drawn directly onto the plate, shows his growing confidence with the medium. As with paintings such as Domestic Scene from the same year, many of the prints in A Rake’s Progress show Hockney boldly deciding to leave the background empty, choosing to put his subject into an unsettling non place populated only by a handful of objects and signs.
While the series is based on Hockney’s own memories of visiting New York, he remains faithful to Hogarth’s plot arc, with prints such as Marries An Old Maid and Bedlam aligning with the original story of Tom Rakewell. While Hogarth’s antihero loses his money, his faithful lover and eventually his sanity, some believe Hockney chooses to focus on ‘a loss of individuality within a commercial society’. And though Hockney’s scenes are not as demoralising as Hogarth’s there is a sense of disorientation, confusion and alienation present in the composition that mirrors some of the darker aspects of Hogarth’s tale. Shadows loom large, doorways are forbidding and huge staircases seem to belittle the somewhat lonely central figure.
Hockney would revisit this series in 1975 when he was commissioned to design sets and costumes for a performance of Stravinksy’s opera of The Rake's Progress at Glyndebourne. In contrast to the earlier etchings, this version is more detailed and more colourful and is characterised by the inclusion of cross hatching to mimic Hogarth’s original prints.
Why is A Rake’s Progress so important?
Hockney is an artist in constant conversation with the old masters that came before him and A Rake’s Progress is the perfect example of his ability to imitate and emulate. Here he takes a subject well known to art lovers and subverts it by radically uprooting it from tradition, offering modern viewers an entirely different perspective on this morality tale that still manages to be filled with his characteristic charm and ingenious eye for composition.
How do I buy a print from A Rake’s Progress?
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of buying work by David Hockney is by using us to reach a seller. MyArtBroker is a curated site, meaning we feature artists that our collectors say they want. You can find David Hockney’s art for sale here. You’ll need to create a free account to buy or sell with us.
How can I sell my A Rake’s Progress print?
If you're looking to sell art by David Hockney, click the link and we can help. We employ a number of techniques and practices in order to give a realistic and achievable valuation on any art listed on myartbroker.com. We analyse the demand for the work in question, take into consideration previous sales and auction valuations, we assess the current gallery valuation and monitor the current deals taking place via MyArtBroker every day. We regularly advise sellers on a price bracket for their artwork completely free of charge.