View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This striking lithograph shows a woman, possibly naked, holding an object which she is offering as a gesture of worship or generosity. She is held in the hand of a giant figure, and it is unclear whether it might be she herself who is the ‘offering’. The stars that surround her perhaps suggest a spiritual context of some kind. Despite the ambiguous subject matter, Collins’s use of lithography adds to the intensity of the image. 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).
Collins pursued his vision of a lost paradise, destroyed by the mechanisation of the modern world, throughout his lifetime. Creating his own version 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).
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, Tate Gallery, London 1989