A Rake’s Progress, 1961–63

Hockney’s first visit to the United States, in the summer of 1961, provided the narrative for this semiautobiographical series. Inspired by William Hogarth’s 1735 engraving series of the same title, Hockney transformed the tale of an aristocrat who squanders his wealth into his own personal story of a young gay man’s journey and emerging identity in 1960s New York City. Although Hockney claimed that “It is not really me. It’s just that I use myself as a model because I’m always around,” the etchings were partly inspired by real events. Plate 1a records his meeting with William S. Lieberman, then curator of drawings and prints at the Museum of Modern Art, who bought two prints from him, including Myself and My Heroes. The name “Lady Clairol” on plate 3 refers to the brand of hair dye Hockney used to bleach his hair for the first time. A range of artistic influences can be traced, from the figures of William Blake to the art brut of Jean Dubuffet.