Did you know?  Check our Rare Books Page

David Hockney’s Illustrations of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales

By Audrey Golden. Feb 24, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature

David Hockney is an English artist who is well known for his portraits, photocollages, and etchings, as well as for his connection to the Pop Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s. His works are owned by museums across the globe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, the Tate Gallery in London, and Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou. In short, Hockney’s paintings and photocollages are featured in the permanent collections of some of the most renowned art museums in the world. But that’s not why we’re writing to you today. While Hockney’s most famous works might be large-scale paintings and prints, we’re excited to introduce you to some of his etchings for the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, which appeared in a book published by Petersburg Press in London (1970).

Hockney’s Interest in the “Psychological Strangeness” of the Brothers Grimm Stories

Grimm_Brothers.jpgWhy did David Hockney decide to complete etchings for a series of Brothers Grimm fairy tales? According to a discussion from the British Council* surrounding an exhibit of the pieces, the English artist “was intrigued by the psychological strangeness of the tales, [and] the relationships and motivations of the characters.” Yet the etchings are also derivative of numerous artists in whom Hockney has found inspiration, such as Carpaccio, Brueghel, and Magritte. For the artist, invoking qualities from works of the near and far past is at once a way of making the Brothers Grimm narratives timeless while also linking Hockney’s own work to other European masters.

As the British Council explains, the prints “bear all the characteristic qualities of David Hockney’s art—a strong interest in storytelling and the interaction of human emotions, the fascination of conveying the supernatural and the psychological in visual terms, and the delight in exploring new ranges of technique with which to set down his perceptions.”

Which Brothers Grimm tales are illustrated in the book collection? Shortly before the Petersburg Press publication, The Paris Review ran a story** on Hockney’s etchings in its Summer 1969 issue. Rather than interviewing the artist about his pieces and his interested in book arts, the contribution instead showed several of Hockney’s studies for the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including a line portrait of Wilhelm Grimm, a sketch entitled “two versions of glass mountain” (with, as you might have guessed, two versions of the glass mountain from the story “The Raven”), and an ink sketch of “Rumpelstiltskin and pig.”

Adding Hockney’s Work to Your Own Book Collection 

grimm-sendak-dear-mili-books-tell-you-whyAre you interested in purchasing a first edition of Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm with Original Etchings by David Hockney (1970)? There are a number of first editions of this book available, and you should be able to find a copy in very good or even near fine condition for under $100.

Are you also interested in purchasing one of the complete portfolios of the etchings, produced from 1969-1970? These are much more difficult to come by. The complete portfolio was designed in an original “Edition A” of only 100 copies, with subsequent runs of “Edition B” and “Edition C” each of 100 copies. These rare portfolios will cost quite a bit, however. In relatively recent auctions, complete portfolios of Edition A, with the original 39 fairy tale etchings, have sold for anywhere between $9,500 and nearly $90,000.

In the meantime, why not explore more artist’s books and consider adding some to your own collection?

Browse our Art Book Collection


*More from the British Council here. **For the full Paris Review story, click here.

Audrey Golden
World literature scholar and erstwhile lawyer. Lover of international travel, outdoor markets, and rare books.


comments powered by Disqus


    About this blog

    How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

    Get blog notifications per email:

    Download the James Bond Dossier

    Recent Posts

    Book Glossary
    Get your free Guide to Book Care

    Blog Archive

    > see older posts
    A Guide to Historic Libraries Part I