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Gerrish Fine Art

London, UK

Gerrish Fine Art have an international reputation as specialists in British art, with a focus on 19th and 20th century printmaking. We also deal in American and European works, including prints, drawings, paintings, photography and sculpture. Gerrish Fine Art is now predminantly an online gallery, though customers can be met, on a ‘by appointment’ basis, at our domestic viewing space in the heart of London’s St. James’s. We present monthly online exhibitions on our website and publish physical catalogues on occasion for special collections.


Hilary Gerrish started his career in art dealing in 1972, as a partner in N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish. He worked from their gallery in St. James’s until 1985, at which point he went independent and created Gerrish Fine Art. The company has since developed into a family business; first with the addition of his daughter Georgie in 2008 (MA Art History, The Courtauld Institute of Art) and subsequently of his son Henry in 2010 (MA Art History, St Andrews).


Gerrish Fine Art has placed numerous works of outstanding quality and rarity into the permanent collections of over 50 international museums and institutions. We further work directly with many of the world’s leading private collectors in our field. We have exhibited at the London Original Print Fair every year since its foundation over 30 years ago, and have participated in other fairs including the IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair (New York), The 20/21 British Art Fair and The Drawing and Watercolour Fair (London). We regularly lend works of art from our collection to museum and gallery exhibitions, and have curated several group and solo shows of our own over the years.

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Detail of 'Two Boys aged 23 or 24', Etching and Aquatint, 1966-67

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Gerrish Fine Art is delighted to present the rare set of all thirteen etchings for Hockney’s Cavafy suite from 1966-67, one of only 25 sets on large sheets of vellum paper. Also included in the collection are two rare unpublished preparatory proofs. This was the first major series of etchings by Hockney since ‘The Rake’s Progress’, they hold a particular social significance given the fact that the UK parliament only passed the Sexual Offences Act, which finally decriminalised homosexuality, in 1967, the year they were published.

‘ILLUSTRATIONS FOR FOURTEEN POEMS FOR CONSTANTINE CAVAFY’ by DAVID HOCKNEY, 1966-67

Hockney was first introduced to the writings of Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), widely considered to be the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th Century, while at art school. In the Summer of 1960, on a trip home, Hockney tracked down a book of Cavafy’s poems in the Bradford library, “I read it from cover to cover, many times, and I thought it was incredible, marvellous”. The intimate poems of desire and sensual pleasure between men, tender contemplations of love, loss and passion, struck a chord with the young artist; his exposure to writers, such as Whitman and Cavafy, who dealt with explicitly homosexual themes proved instrumental in making Hockney feel more at ease with expressing his own sexuality in his work. Hockney recalled of this fertile period of self-discovery, “I suddenly felt part of a bohemian world, a world about art, poetry and music. I felt a deep part of it rather than any other kind of life. I finally felt I belonged. I met kindred spirits and the first homosexuals who weren’t afraid to admit what they were. Adrian Berg lived in a free world, and fuck the rest of it. I thought, “I like that. That’s the way I want to live. Forget Bradford.” Once I accepted all this, it gave me a great sense of freedom, and I started to paint homosexual subjects.”

A few years later Hockney expressed a desire to create a series of works inspired by Cavafy’s poetry to Paul Cornwall-Jones of Editions Alecto. In the film ‘Love’s Presentation’, which documents Hockney working on this series, Hockney says, “Cavafy in a way wrote two kinds of poem, one sort of poem about historical Alexandria, the ptolemies, which he knew from history, and the other poems are about modern Alexandria life, which he knew in modern Alexandria, and they’re mostly love poems, I suppose because I know more about love than I do about history I chose to do those”. Cornwall Jones encouraged him to start work, and for inspiration Hockney visited Beirut, which he considered the equivalent of a modern day Alexandria - “the Paris of the Middle East” - in January of 1966. On his return he began to work up his plates at his home in Notting Hill, working from his Beirut drawings, photos he had taken or found, or from life, with his acid bath on the balcony. Hockney’s clean lines and use of empty space are very much intended to visually create an equivalent to the clarity and simplicity of Cavafy’s words.

The series was greatly celebrated upon its release, English writer Edward Lucie-Smith declared: “I have just seen the first pulls from some of the (Cavafy) plates, and thought them not only the best work I have seen by the artist, but probably the finest prints seen in England since the war”.

Numbered in roman numerals from the edition of 25 + 5 APs in Edition E. Signed and dated ’66’ by the artist in pencil. Stamped on the reverse with the Editions Alecto publication number. Printed on handmade vellum wove 72 lb Royal paper by J. Barcham Green Ltd. Printed in black ink, from steel-faced copper plates, by Maurice Payne and Danyon Black at the Alecto Studios, London. Published by Editions Alecto in 1967.

Currently only available as part of the complete set of 13 etchings plus two unpublished preparatory proofs, if you would like to register your interest in this single print please email us with your details.

“Of course they are about gay love, and I was quite boldly using that subject then. I was aware that it was illegal, but I didn’t really think much about that at the time. I was living in a bohemian world, where we just did what we pleased. I wasn’t speaking for anybody else. I was defending my way of living” - David Hockney

David Hockney (b.1937)

Two Boys Aged 23 or 24

1966-67

64 x 51.5 cm

Etching and Aquatint

This etching is based on a photograph Hockney took of his friends, the artists Mo McDermott and Dale Chisman, in bed in his flat in Notting Hill; there is also a pen and ink drawing of the same composition. The contented slumber of the two men, facing each other with limbs affectionately touching, suggests a feeling of easy intimacy. It very much echoes the mood of the poem Hockney chose to accompany this etching, which tells the story of two boys having a joyous night out together after a casino win, it ends: “And when the expensive drinks were finished, when it was nearly dawn, content, they gave themselves to love.” Currently only available as part of the complete set of 13 etchings, if you would like to register your interest in this single print please email us with your details.”

Price on Application

David Hockney (b.1937)

In the Dull Village

1966-67

64 x 51.5 cm

Etching

This etching depicts the same couple seen in ‘Two boys aged 23 and 24’, Hockney’s friends the artists Mo McDermott and Dale Chisman, in bed in his flat in Notting Hill. One of the boys contentedly slumbers while his partner tenderly gazes at his resting lover. The poem Hockney chose to accompany this piece recounts a youth aching for an escape from his dull life, but finding satisfaction in his dreams: “in the dull village where he waits - he went to bed love-sick tonight his whole youth afire with fleshly passion, beautiful youth beautiful in intensity. And pleasure came to him in sleep; he sees and has the body he desires in his sleep…”

Price on Application

David Hockney (b.1937)

According to Prescriptions of Ancient Magicians'

1966-67

64 x 51.5 cm

Etching

This etching takes its composition from an ink drawing, ‘Boys in Bed, Beirut’, that Hockney made in London using his friends as models. The scene is one of relaxed intimacy, almost as if the pair have been caught mid-conversation. There is an air of eagerness between the two boys, eyes locked on each other, Hockney truly captures the innocence of young love and desire. In Cavafy’s poem a man wishes for a quintessence that could take him back in time to a lover from his youth, one that: “could bring me back my twenty-third year; could bring my lover back to me in his twenty-second year - his love, his beauty.”

Price on Application

Detail of 'In an Old Book', Etching, 1966-67

Detail of 'The Shop Window of a Tobacco Store', Etching & aquatint, 1966-67

David Hockney (b.1937)

The Beginning

1966-67

64 x 51.5 cm

Etching and Aquatint

This etching takes its composition from a photograph Hockney took of his friends in bed - they confidently engage with the viewer, relaxed and at ease, handsome and unashamed. The mood of the etching is quite different to that of the poem that accompanies it, which poignantly addresses the dichotomy between the beauty of a pleasure that alters your existence and the fear that it cannot be exposed in public. “Having fulfilled their lawless pleasure, they get up out of bed and dress in silence, hurriedly. Furtively, separately, they leave the house and walk uneasily along the street as in fear of something that betrays how, a short while ago, they’d lain together.”

Price on Application

David Hockney (b.1937)

In and Old Book

1966-67

64 x 51.5 cm

Etching

The source for this etching was a photo from an American ‘beefcake’ magazine. In the 50s and 60s such publications, like ‘Physique Pictorial’ and ‘The Young Physique’, enabled the distribution of erotic photos of naked, or scantily-clad men under the guise of an interest in body building or fitness; a clever way to escape censorship before the gay liberation movement. Hockney was fascinated by the magazines and even visited the offices of Physique Pictorial in a seedy area of downtown LA - where he explicitly relates this home of contemporary underground gay culture to his literary hero. He recalled, “It’s run by a wonderful complete madman and he has this tacky swimming pool surrounded by Hollywood Greek plaster statues. It was marvellous! To me it had the air of Cavafy in the tackiness of things.” The poem chosen to accompany this etching describes a watercolour found pressed between the pages of an old book: “It’s title was, ‘Love’s Presentation’. A more appropriate name would be, “Uttermost Passionate Love’s…” Because it was quite evident when seeing the work (the idea of the artist could clearly be perceived), that the young boy of the painting was not destined for those who are ordinary healthy lovers confined to what is thoroughly permissible - with chestnut brown deep coloured eyes with the unique beauty of his face the beauty of fascination with the abnormal with ideal lips for bringing the loved body pleasure with ideal limbs made for those beds that current morality would call shamelesss.” In his essay ‘Orientalism and David Hockney’s Cavafy Etchings: Exploring a Male-positive Imaginative Geography’, Dennis Gouws discusses the way in which this etching confronts the viewer by looking them direct in the eye, “Rather than frustrating the gaze, the full-frontal figure challenges the viewer to imagine what participating in an intimate homoerotic relationship would be like. Like the unsettling gaze of the reclining nude courtesan who frankly appraises the viewer in Manet’s Olympia (1863), Hockney’s nude challenges conventional heteronormative scrutiny.”

Price on Application

Detail of 'In an Old Book', Etching, 1966-67

Gerrish Fine Art

London, UK

+44 (0) 207 871 3089