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In his youth Ayrton was fascinated by the story of the hermit Saint Anthony who had resisted temptation from demonic visions. Ayrton began this version of the theme in 1942, during the Second World War, because he felt it related to his own life and to the state of the world. Ayrton makes his scene dark and monstrous, emphasizing the macabre, supernatural nature of the visions. As an artist and critic Ayrton had promoted a revival of the Northern European tradition of romantic art, with its emphasis on imagination and emotion. This Neo-Romantic art signified the freedom of the individual and a continuity with English culture of the past, both of which were important during the dark days of the War.

August 2004