David Hockney first discovered the Greek poet C.P.Cavafy while a student at the Royal Colege of Art in the early nineteen sixties. In 1961 he produced two etchings ( Kaisanion with all his Beauty; Mirror, Mirror on the Wall ) and a painting (A Grand Procession of Dignitaries in the Semi - Egyptian Style ) inspired by Cavafy's poems. So when Paul Cornwall - Jones of Editions Alecto asked him to make a series of etchings relating to Cavafy in 1966 he agreed without hesitation.
The poems Hockney chose all related to Alexandria in Egypt with its barely concealed flavour of homosexual love, but Alexandria had become too spoilt since the poems were written in the nineteen twenties and so he travelled to Beirut for two weeks in order to make careful pen and ink drawings of the daily life of the city. On his return he created the etchings which vividly demonstrated his new fascination with observed reality after the more abstract imagery of his Rake's Progress series of 1961 - 63.
-Excerpt from The Cavafy Etchings, 1967 by Peter Webb
View David Hockney's Cavafy etchings at the TATE online gallery