David Hockney

28 November 2011
Bedlam, A Rake's Progress (Portfolio of Sixteeen Prints) edition 34/50

Whitworth Art Gallery

The Whitworth Art Gallery has, for many years, had a significant relationship with the exhibition of works by David Hockney. In 1969, as part of the gallery’s celebration of its newly opened exhibition galleries, the Whitworth presented a large exhibition of Hockney’s prints and paintings. Included in the exhibition was the entire series of A Rake’s Progress (1961-63). The work was again exhibited at The Whitworth in 2003 as part of the ‘Editions Alecto, 1960-1981’exhibition. Thematically, the Whitworth’s collection provides a rich context for Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress as it holds the most significant collection of single sheet prints by William Hogarth in the UK outside London.

The curators see this as a valuable way into the collection for a variety of research specialisms and academic courses in the University of Manchester. When stored, the work will be accessible in the Prints and Drawings Study Room, and as part of gallery’s redevelopment plans, a new Collection Study Centre will be constructed giving even easier access to the stored collection of works on paper.

About A Rake’s Progress

A Rake’s Progress is a semi-autobiographical story about Hockney, the ‘rake’, and the down and outs of his life in New York in the early 1960’s. The format, story and numbering system is based on William Hogarth’s 1735 suite of prints of the same title. Originally Hockney’s intention was to produce 25 etchings, as a book; however this was later reduced down to 16 and printed as a portfolio in 1965 by Editions Alecto. Hogarth’s 18th century prints tell of the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, a spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bedlam.

In Hockneys’ he tells the story of arriving in New York, receiving money, dying his hair blonde, marrying an old maid, losing money, with his eventual fate not the Bedlam prison but Bedlam, the mindless masses of the ‘other people’, the only way of distinguishing the ‘rake’ from the other robotic figures is by a small arrow above his head, he has finally been subsumed into the uniform crowd where personal identity has disappeared.


Stay up to date with the latest news and events and receive our monthly newsletter.


Support Us

Donations of all sizes help sustain emerging artists at the beginning of their careers and ensure that their work has inspirational impact on audiences across the UK