Published: Sept. 3, 2012
Bedlam art

The University of Colorado Boulder is hosting a world premiere shared staging of all three versions of William Hogarth’s “Rake’s Progress” in September and October.

Exhibitions of the original Hogarth artwork and prints by David Hockney, as well as the staging of Stravinsky’s opera, will provide a multidisciplinary interpretation of this seminal work in Hogarth’s career.

Collaboration among CU-Boulder’s Center for British and Irish Studies, CU Art Museum, College of Music, CU Opera, and the English and art and art history departments of the College of Arts and Sciences provides this unique opportunity in the world of art and music. While elements of the “Rake” trio have been presented in the past, the event will mark the first time all three versions have been presented together. A conference will complete the opportunity for discussion of the works and their influence.

In 1735 the English artist Hogarth produced “A Rake’s Progress,” the second of a series of printed engravings based on what the artist himself called “modern moral subjects.” Hogarth’s story focused on a lusty rogue, aptly named “Rakewell.” After spending all his inherited money on clothes, women and drink, the rake ends up in London’s notorious Bedlam lunatic asylum.

The series was one of the works that raised Hogarth to the standing of a master, but his successors were just as important to the history of art and opera.

In 1947 the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky saw the prints on display in Chicago and enlisted the English writer W. H. Auden and the American Chester Kallman to compose a libretto based on the series. Auden and Kallman recast a tale about 18th century morality into a libretto now widely recognized as one of the finest of the 20th century.

Stravinsky, who was the first to be particularly inspired by Hogarth’s “visual theater,” composed what has since been heralded as a masterpiece, even though it remains his sole opera composition.

Similarly inspired, the English artist David Hockney produced another set of prints based on Hogarth’s series, which retained the main title as well as some of the titles of Hogarth’s individual prints. Hockney also would later design costumes and sets for the Stravinsky opera.

Hockney, one of the greatest postmodern artists of our time and a visiting artist at CU-Boulder in 1965, went perhaps the furthest in meeting the Hogarthian challenge. Hockney entered a new life when he completed the series. As it turns out, he had just sold his first prints in America. With that money he bought a new suit, bleached his hair and celebrated with new friends in New York’s gay bars. Whether he knew it or not, he would soon become a pivotal figure in a movement that would change the world of art.

Visual Art

The CU Art Museum presents “Hockney and Hogarth: Selections From the CU Art Museum’s Collection of British Art,” curated by Lisa Tamiris Becker and Catherine Labio,  Sept. 7 through Oct. 27. The exhibition builds on the strengths of the CU Art Museum’s collection of British art and features Hockney’s first major print series, “A Rake’s Progress” (1961-63) alongside the 1735 series by William Hogarth that was the series’ inspiration.

The opening reception for the exhibition will be held Sept. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the CU Art Museum. The event is free and open to the public.

A large selection of additional works from the 119 Hogarth engravings included in the CU Art Museum’s permanent collection also will be on view. More information on the exhibit can be found at


CU Opera presents Stravinsky’s 1951 masterwork “The Rake's Progress” Oct. 26 and 28 in Macky Auditorium under the direction of Leigh Holman and Conductor Nicholas Carthy. Tickets start at $14, with showtimes and additional information available at


“The Rake’s Progress: Stravinsky, Hogarth, Hockney, Auden and Kallman” is a multidisciplinary conference hosted by the Center for British and Irish Studies, the CU Art Museum and the College of Music. The conference will take place Oct. 26-27 in the British and Irish Studies Room in Norlin Library on the fifth floor, room M549. For details about scheduled events, see the conference schedule at

A full listing of events can be found on the CU-Boulder Events Calendar at and on the website