'The History of art is a history of appropriationsHe (Hockney) has been able to adapt his reading of Picasso's art to his own very different representational problems and has thereby created works that are fresh, innovative, and personal' (Gert Schiff, A Moving Focus: Hockney's dialogue with Picasso, in: David Hockney: A Retrospective, exh. cat. , Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Thames & Hudson, London, 1988, p. 41)
Hockney first encountered Picasso's work on a visit to London as an art student in 1954, and when an important Picasso show was mounted at the Tate in 1960, Hockney, then a student at the Royal Academy of Art, visited the exhibition eight times. Yet inspite of this early enthusiasm it was not until the 1970s that the first pictorial references to the Spanish master started to appear in his paintings and prints.
When Picasso died in 1973 Hockney was invited to contribute a print to the portfolio Homage to Picasso. Deciding to make an etching he went to the studio of Aldo Crommelynck, Picasso's master printer, in Paris. It was under Crommelynck's tutelage that Hockney learnt about the sugar lift aquatint, a method used extensively by Picasso, as well as colour etching techniques which he would use later in The Blue Guitar to great effect.
Having long intended to experiment with Cubism, it was the discovery in 1976 of a poem inspired by Picasso's painting The Old Guitarist (1930) by the American poet Wallace Stevens which would lead to Hockney's great early homage to the Spanish master's art, The Blue Guitar.
'I read Wallace Steven's poem in the summer of 1976. The etchings themselves were not conceived as literal illustrations of the poem but as an interpretation of its themes in visual terms. Like the poem, they are about transformations within art as well as the relation between reality and the imagination, so these are pictures and different styles of representation juxtaposed and reflected and dissolved within the same frame.' (Artist's statement on dustjacket of the catalogue documenting the publication of The Blue Guitar portfolio of etchings, Petersburg Press, London and New York, 1977).
In The Blue Guitar Hockney began a dialogue with the language of cubism which would inform much of his work throughout the 1980's, most notably in this sale in the prints from Moving Focus (see lots 120, 123 and 128), his experimental photocopies and faxes (see lots 125-127, 129-132) and his photo-collages (see lots 140-144).