Artwork information




Etching and aquatint in colours on wove paper


1976 - 1977


52.5 cm x 45.4 cm

Dimensions with frame63.1 cm x 55.1 cm


Signed lower right

State of conservation

Very good




Paris, France


'Serenade, from: The Blue Guitar' by David Hockney (1976-1977)

In the summer of 1976, David Hockney discovered a poem by Wallace Stevens, 'The Man with the Blue Guitar', inspired by Picasso's famous Blue Period painting. He immediately had the idea of returning the poem to its original state as a painting, in order to consecrate the omnipotence of image over language.

In the poem," recalls Hockney, "I like the phrase 'you don't play things as they are', because Picasso's detractors used to say of his art: 'you don't paint things as they are'. In reality, things as they are do not exist in the realm of painting, where the eye is deceived by the use of illusionist processes to make things look as they are. Hockney thus claims to be the heir to one of the great revolutions of modern painting: the break with figurative illusionism, which stood in the way of the artist's autonomy and the total liberation of his creative faculties.

Serenade symbolizes this new awareness. A celebration of the joy of spontaneously inventing images without concern for logic, the work presents a variety of forms that the artist proudly arranges like trophies on a display stand. Hockney also off-centers the gaze by directing each vanishing line to a different point in space outside the work, directly into life.

The artist says he envisaged this work as a playful dialogue between abstract line and the illusion that freezes the flow of water in space, the mathematical complexity of man-made objects and the organic simplicity of natural forms.

The work can be read as a self-portrait of the artist as a reservoir of image production. Finally, it poses the question: how can we look at the world and recreate it without being prisoners of old modes of representation?

Since the early 1960s, David Hockney has sought to combine his modern aesthetic style with personal subjects. He began by inserting fragments of poems into his creations, as in 'We Two Boys Together Clinging' (1961), which incorporates two lines from a Walt Whitman poem of the same title.

Fifteen years later, inspired by Wallace Stevens' 'The Man with the Blue Guitar' (1937), with its themes of representation and imaginative transformation, David Hockney produced ten drawings in colored ink and colored pencil. With the help of master printer Aldo Crommelynck, these drawings were converted into 20 etchings using a color etching process originally developed for Pablo Picasso.

While not a literal illustration of Stevens's poem, 'The Blue Guitar' series of prints interprets its themes in visual terms, and most of the works testify to Hockney's love of Picasso.

Etching and aquatint in color on wove paper, signed in pencil, numbered 156/200 (there were also 37 studio proofs). Published by Petersburg Press in New York and London in 1977, with the title stamped on the verso.

Dimensions of plate: 437 x 347 mm - Dimensions of sheet: 525 x 454 mm - Dimensions of framed work: 631 x 551 mm

Condition report:
- The sheet is in very good condition, it is complete, the colors are very beautiful.
- The sheet shows slight mounting stains, and is bound with tape at the corners of the sheet on the reverse.
- There is also a small freckle near the top edge of the sheet on the reverse, which is not visible on the front.
- The frame is in fairly good condition, except that the glass is scratched.


Marlborough Gallery, New York


Scottish Arts Council 217; Tokyo 196


This is a non-exhaustive list of the museums that own a copy of this work:
- MoMA, New York, USA
- Art Institute, Chicago, USA
- McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, USA

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The artist


David Hockney

Famous artistFamous artist
Born in 1937
United Kingdom


David Hockney, born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, is one of the most prominent and influential figures in contemporary art. His remarkable artistic career has been marked by decades of innovation, creativity, and a passionate pursuit of artistic exploration, establishing him as a pillar of the modern art world.

From a young age, David Hockney displayed an extraordinary gift for art, a talent he nurtured throughout his life. He studied at the Bradford School of Art before continuing his education at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London. It was there that his unique style began to take shape, heralding the start of an artistic career that would leave an indelible mark.

In the early 1960s, David Hockney began making a name for himself with groundbreaking works. He quickly became known for his ability to push artistic boundaries, notably with works such as A Bigger Splash (1967), which captured the essence of the sunny California where he had taken up residence. This period, marked by the sunny California lifestyle, inspired a series of iconic works celebrating poolside living and the vibrancy of urban life.

Hockney is celebrated for his revolution in the use of color, light, and perspective, creating paintings that seem to pulse with energy. He also experimented with various artistic mediums, from acrylic and watercolor painting to collage and pencil drawings.

Beyond his pictorial work, David Hockney also ventured into the world of digital technology, becoming a pioneer in the use of the iPad and other digital tools for art creation. His digital creations pushed the boundaries of artistic expression, showcasing his ability to evolve with the times while maintaining his creative genius.

In addition to his prolific artistic career, Hockney became a mentor for many aspiring artists. His writings and lectures shared his wisdom and perspective on art, helping guide and inspire the next generation of artists.

The impact of David Hockney on the world of contemporary art is undeniable, with his works present in countless public and private collections worldwide. He is more than an artist; he is an inspiration for those who seek to push the boundaries of creativity and celebrate the beauty of the world around us. His career brilliantly illustrates the notion that art is an endless journey of exploration and expression.

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