Illustrations For Fourteen Poems By C.P. Cavafy by David Hockney

Illustrations For Fourteen Poems By C.P. Cavafy David Hockney

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Hockney has always considered himself to be something of a literary painter and many of his works make reference to texts, such as his Brothers Grimm portfolio, The Blue Guitar prints – inspired by the poems of Wallace Stevens, as well as Picasso – and one of his earliest prints, Myself and my Heroes where he shows his love for Walt Whitman. With the series Illustrations For Fourteen Poems By C.P. Cavafy Hockney has chosen to focus on a homosexual poet whose work he admired from a young age.

Writing at the beginning of the 20th century, when practicing homosexuality was still illegal in many countries, Cavafy was forced to keep his poems chaste, however his verses do allude to a digression from the norms with lines such as “The young man depicted there / Was not destined for those /  Who love in ways that are more or / less healthy, / Inside the bounds of what is clearly / permissible –” But while Cavafy was forced to hide behind suggestion, Hockney laid everything out in the open, his prints often depicting men naked together in bed, such as – perhaps the most famous print from the series – Two Boys Aged 23 or 24, The Beginning and In Despair while In An Old Book shows a full frontal male nude with no attempt to disguise the homoeroticism of the artist’s gaze.

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