Beautiful and White Flowers
From Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy 23/75
234 x 223 image size
This is one of 13 etchings for Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy.. Hockney's first major series of etchings since A Rake's Progress (1961-3), it was conceived almost entirely in terms of line and contained the artist's most accomplished line drawings to that date. He had made earlier references to the writings of the pre-war Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy. This was Hockney's first major statement inspired by the poet. Although he originally intended to illustrate a far more ambitious range of poems, this proved impractical and he therefore decided only to include those on the subject of homosexual love. A new translation was produced by the poets Stephen Spender and Nikos Stangos, and published with the etchings in 1967. In early 1966 Hockney went to Beirut, which he saw as the contemporary equivalent of Cavafy's Alexandria, to research imagery for the prints. While taking inspiration from Cavafy's poetry, Hockney also drew upon his own experiences and environment. For instance, his ink drawing Boys in Bed, Beirut (1966) was adapted for one of the prints, Photographs were also used as reference material - images he describes as 'very posed' Hockney was not entirely pleased with the results, Hockney conceived the images, like the English texts, as an updated translation of Cavafy's imagery. Portrait of Cavafy II depicts the poet in front of an architectural setting copied from a drawing Hockney made of a Beirut police station, with a modern car in the foreground. Only a few of the etchings (He Enquired After the Quality, The Shop Window of a Tobacco Store) depict a particular place or scene as described in the poems. Hockney did not work with the poems at his side, nor did he intend each image to be an illustration of a particular poem. Rather, he and Stangos assigned poems to the etchings only after the prints were done. Intended as visual equivalents to the mood and theme of all Cavafy's homoerotic poetry, Hockney's etchings depict variations on the theme of two men engaged in endless, anonymous pick-ups. Certain themes are found in the work of both Hockney and Cavafy: fleeting experiences, a nostalgia for the erotic, and a desire to be deeply involved in the lives of others while remaining a detached spectator.
acknowledgement Tate Gallery
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