Hockney’s series, also entitled A Rake’s Progress, was bequeathed to the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester in early 2011 by collector and philanthropist Dr Ronald Lande, who gifted the works in memory of his life partner Walter Urech.
The gorgeous series was created between 1961 and 1963, when Hockney was traversing his own Rake’s Progress – though his narrative takes place in the streets of New York, rather than Hogarth’s insalubrious London surroundings.
We follow Hockney’s formative years as an artist as he navigates New York – a trip made possible after winning a £100 prize for his early etching, Three Kings and a Queen.
We see not only the physical steps he takes in the New York art world – making money selling prints to galleries, meeting the city’s vibrant characters, his first foray into dying his hair blonde; but also the mental journey he takes.
As well as the highs of his new life, we see the crushing lows of his sometime impoverishment, and how he feels his life, at one point, resembles his own version of a Hogarthian Bedlam.
Sophia Bardsley, deputy director of the Contemporary Art Society, says, ‘We are thrilled to be able to display the entire set of 16 prints comprising A Rake’s Progress at the Contemporary Art Society this summer. The prints are some of Hockney’s earliest works and exemplify his incredible skill at this stage in his career.’
The Contemporary Art Society opened its doors to the public for the first time earlier this year, with a new space designed by architecture practice Carmody Groarke.
David Hockney A Rake’s Progress is on display until 16 August at The Contemporary Art Society, 59 Central St, London EC1V