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Burra often combines the macabre with the humourous: these skeletons dance in tarts' hats, as if in a music hall. Though such works have been seen in terms of child-like fantasy, they also reveal the artist's interest in the satirical paintings of the German artist George Grosz. The vigour of the deathly dance is made chillingly absurd by the decay around the skeletons. The scene is full of references to death, not least the dangling figures silhouetted against the sky, which recall photographs of hanged rebels in Africa which Burra saw in the Belgian cultural magazine Variétés.

August 2004