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Rye, a picturesque town near the south coast, was Burra's life-long home. During the war it became a centre for military activity. Soldiers are turned into nightmarish birdmen that recall the Surrealist paintings of the German artist Max Ernst and Burra's own work of the early Thirties. The artist was interested in sixteenth-century English poetry, and the bright colours and stylised dress might suggest courtly combat. Such ideas of brutality and heroism are offset by the attention to the figures' buttocks that creates a homosexual frisson through the scene.

August 2004