In 1996 Kentridge embarked on a series of etchings to coincide with the centenary of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. In Ubu tells the Truth Kentridge transposed Jarry's spiral bellied comic anti-hero with the figure of a naked man based on photographs of Kentridge performing the part of Ubu in his studio. The series was the basis for a theatre production written and directed by the artist, Ubu & the Truth Commission (1997), which in turn was the genesis of The Sleeper prints. 'I had worked on a series of messy drawings of a naked man, sometimes enclosed by the white Ubu line drawing, trying to get some feel of the theatre production in them. With the first set of drypoints I had used a thumbprint and printed the heel of my hand to suggest the flesh texture. With the large drawings one has to pull shape and texture into the drawing on a larger scale. I wheeled a bicycle across the paper, hit it with charcoal-impregnated silk rope, invited children and cats to walk over it, spattered it freely with pigment. The Sleeper prints used a range of materials and objects placed on soft ground to try to effect the same damage upon the paper'. (William Kentridge, in: William Kentridge Prints, David Krut Publishing, Johannesburg and New York, 2006, p. 66)
This is the first time that the complete series has been offered at auction.