Myself and My Heroes, 1961
signed and dated, edition of 50
etching and aquatint
10 1/8 x 19 3/4 inches
25.7 x 50.2 cm
25.7 x 50.2 cm
ExhibitionsOntario, St. Catherines, Rodman Hall Arts Centre through Brock University in co-operation with Rudolf Springer, Graphics by David Hockney, 7 November- 30 November 1969, cat no.1, another edition illus
London, Whitechapel Gallery, David Hockney: Paintings, Prints and Drawings 1960-1970, 2 April- 3 May 1970, cat no. P3, another edition illus p.78, touring to:
Hannover, Kestener-Gesellschaft, 22 May-21 June 1970;
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 25 July-29 August 1970;
Belgrade, Muzej Sauremene Umetnosti, 18 September-15 October 1970.
Nottingham, Midland Group and the Scottish Arts Council in association with Petersburg Press, David Hockney Prints 1954-1977, 20 January- 24 February 1979, cat no.4, another edition illus, touring to;
Aberdeen, Schoolhill Art Gallery and Museum, 10 March- 14 April 1979,
Edinburg, The Fruit Market Gallery, 28 April- 19 May 1979,
Glasgow, Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum, 28 May- 24 June 1979,
Paisley, High Street Museum and Art Gallery, 2 July- 29 July 1979,
Southampton, The Civic Centre Art Gallery, 12 August- 9 September 1979,
Bradford, Art Gallery and Museum, 30 September- 4 November 1979,
Stoke-on-Trent, City Museum and Art Gallery, 19 November- 15 December 1979,
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 5 January- 3 February 1980,
Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, 17 February- 15 March 1980.
London, Michael Parking Fine Art in association with Mark Glazebrook, Hockney and Poetry, cat no. 1, another edition illus.
Tokyo, Odakyu Grand Gallery, David Hockney, 26 April- 22 May 1989, cat no. 53, another edition illus, touring to:
Gunma, The Museum of Modern Art, 15 July- 13 August 1989,
Chiba, The Seibu Museum, 25 August- 19 September 1989,
Osaka, Umeda Hankyu Gallery, 29 September- 11 October 1989
London, Hazlitt Holland- Hibbert in association with Lyndsey Ingram, David Hockney: The Complete Early Etchings 1961- 1964, 3 February- 10 March 2017, cat no.1, illus p.13
LiteratureMarco Livingstone, David Hockney, Thames and Hudson, London, 1981, pl. 21, another edition illus p.35
Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney: My Early Years, Thames and Hudson, 1988, pl. 30, another edition illus p.56
Exhibition Catalogue, Los Angeles Museum of Art, David Hockney: A Retrospective, Los Angeles, 1988, fig2, another edition illus p.14
Ulrich Luckhardt & Paul Melia, David Hockney: A Drawing Retrospective, Thames and Hudson, 1995, fig. 18, another edition illus p.49
Peter Clothier, Hockney, Modern Masters Series, Volume 17, Abbeville Press Publishers, New York, pl. 10, another edition illus p.16
DescriptionMyself and My Heroes is David Hockney's first etching, made while he was still a student at the Royal College of Art. Hockney later noted that he ‘started doing graphic work in 1961 because I’d run out of money and I couldn’t buy any paint, and in the graphic department they gave you the materials free’ 1 Hockney would go on to become a highly skilled printmaker and his first work is notably accomplished, albeit made with the guidance of the college’s technicians. He has achieved a broad range of grey tones and interesting textures using the particularly difficult technique of aquatint, which requires very precise timing of the plate in the acid bath in order to add just the right level of texture, before the acid ‘bites’ too far and destroys the image.
The subject is a self-portrait showing the artist with his ‘heroes’ Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the title echoing the first line of Whitman’s poem Song of Myself (written in 1892), ‘I celebrate myself, I sing myself’, (the word sing is written on Whitman’s body). The personal subject matter of this first print was partly influenced by fellow student at the Royal College of Art, R.B. Kitaj, who encouraged the younger Hockney to make art about the things that really interested him: literature, politics, people and their relationships, and in fact the present edition was owned by Kitaj and comes directly from his estate.
Gandhi's pacifism and vegetarianism reflected the views of his parents – his mother was a vegetarian and his father a keen member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Hockney identified with both the (suppressed) gay content of Walt Whitman’s poetry and his sensual attitude to life – and in the summer of 1960 he read everything the poet had written. Here Hockney refers to the poem The Dear Love of Comrades. It is important to note that while Hockney was open about his sexuality at the Royal College of Art, homosexuality remained a criminal offence in Britain until 1967. Whitman disguised some of the gay content of his diaries by using secret codes, an idea Hockney copied in his Doll Boy and Love Paintings, in which small, hand-written texts suggest the graffiti found in men’s toilets.
In the introduction to the exhibition David Hockney Prints 1954-1977, Andrew Brighton notes that,
‘In Myself and My Heroes, 1961, like Self Portrait, 1954 the figures, although semi-transparent, are essentially cutouts in front of a backdrop. Hockney’s line tended to be an outline within which space and form are evoked, hence the cutout character of the figures. If a drawing is begun by delineating the outline the problem remains of what happens within the form…Hockney dissociates the outline from the internal cross-hatching and signals rather than evokes the body.
As has been pointed out, Hockney’s work in the early sixties owes something to lavatory graffiti. In Myself and My Heroes the scratches smears, stains and bleaching are redolent of the pentimento marks made by many hands and the attempts at erasure by the lavatory attendant. Among the stains is printed a message: “I am 23 years old and wear glasses”’
“What one must remember about some of these pictures”, Hockney has said of this work at this time, “is that they were partly propaganda of something I felt hadn’t been propagandised as a subject: homosexuality”. He went on to say that “because it was a part of me it was a subject that I could treat humorously”. Hockney describes how he was “very shy” about admitting his homosexuality in Bradford, but that on being challenged about it at the Royal College he was “a bit embarrassed and then my reaction was, of course I was. What about it? It made me rather militant, and I thought what’s the point of hiding it”’ 2
Here Hockney presents himself as a rather geeky looking young man with glasses, almost like a boy scout, suggesting the artist’s vulnerability and a certain insecurity about his appearance. Within the outline of the figures scribbled lines suggest a sense of interiority and one can perhaps make out an anxious face within the figure of Hockney, an idea present in the painting Grand Procession of Dignitaries in the Semi-Egyptian Style, 1961 in which a bishop, Egyptian pharaoh and military general contain within them smaller human figures, suggesting a less confident interior monologue.
1 David Hockney, David Hockney, London, 1976, p64
2 Andrew Brighton (intro.), David Hockney Prints 1954-77, Midland Group and Scottish Council with Ptersberg Press, 1979, introduction, unpaginated