View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Cecil Collins 1908-1989
Angel of the Stars 1960
This lithograph shows an ‘angel’ with a triangular face and a body of flowing lines, in a dark sky above two stars. The first angel appeared in Collins’s work in about 1934 and thereafter it became a recurring motif. In an interview in 1979 he stated ‘The angelic tradition, or the angelic intelligence is that which connects all the worlds and very often visits this world and enters into the world, into the battlefield of this world. Angels exist to help transform our consciousness, to open our awareness – and contemplation of their beauty purifies us’ (quoted in Keeble, p.120). Collins associates the Angel with the Fool, both being innocent victims of modern, mechanised society.
Collins pursued his vision of a lost paradise, destroyed by the mechanisation of the modern world, throughout his lifetime. Creating his own versions of archetypal figures, such as the Fool and the Angel, Collins attempted to reveal to us our innermost selves. These figures, he believed, represented an innocence that had ceased to exist in the ‘Machine Age’ (Keeble, p.73). Many of Collins’s aims and beliefs were published in an essay he titled The Vision of the Fool, which was first published in 1947. This essay, written during World War II (1939-45), affirmed the importance of the divine imagination, and has led Anderson, amongst others, to claim that Collins is the ‘most important metaphysical artist to have emerged in England since Blake’ (Anderson, p.11).
In this lithograph Collins contrasts the dark background with the negative shapes which he applied freely with a brush. Collins experimented with several different print-making processes, including etching and roneo printing. Morphet commented that ‘The improvisatory potential of lithography was specially suitable to Collins at a moment when he wished simultaneously to unwind, to experiment, and to explore new directions’ (Morphet, p.19).
Richard Morphet, The Prints of Cecil Collins, London 1981
William Anderson, Cecil Collins: The Quest for the Great Happiness, London 1988
Judith Collins, Cecil Collins: A Retrospective Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1989
Brian Keeble, The Vision of the Fool and other Writings, Ipswich 1994