Hockney's engraved illustrations commissioned to accompany the love poems of Constantine Cavafy.
The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933) is famous for his gay love poetry, written in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Alexandria in Egypt in the 1920s. David Hockney discovered Cavafy's poetry while still a student, and it inspired several works that he made in 1961. In 1966 he was commissioned to make a series of etchings relating to the poet, and in 1967 he published a portfolio entitled Illustrations for Thirteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy, works from which are exhibited here.
As preparation for the commission, Hockney travelled to the Middle East, although he went not to Egypt but to the Lebanon, which was then the more cosmopolitan locale. Hockney returned with a set of pen-and-ink drawings of street life in Beirut, and several of these were used as the basis for etchings. However, the majority of the final prints concentrate not on street scenes but on interiors, and were based primarily on drawings of pairs of boys made in the artist's bedroom in Notting Hill. These works are not literal illustrations of Cavafy's poems, but evocations of the fleeting sexual encounters that are among their subjects.
David Hockney was born in 1937 in Bradford, and educated at Bradford College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London, graduating in 1962. Hockney is one of the leading figures associated with British Pop art, and has worked as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. In the mid-1960s he made Los Angeles his main residence, but he is primarily based in Yorkshire.