Cecil Collins
Untitled [Head] ?1939

Artwork details

Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Untitled [Head]
Date ?1939
Medium Etching on printed paper
Dimensions Image: 97 x 75 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Elisabeth Collins, the artist's widow, through the Art Fund 2001
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms


This head and shoulder portrait has been carefully drawn on to a metal plate with a network of engraved lines. The identity of the sitter is not known but it bears a slight resemblance to the artist. The meticulous detail of this straightforward portrait is characteristic of Collins who experimented with several different print-making processes throughout his lifetime, and created some of his most powerful images by means of etching, lithography and roneo printing. This naturalistic image is unusual for Collins who, pursuing his vision of a world that had existed before industrialisation and mechanisation, created his own version of archetypal figures, such as the Fool and the Angel, to reawaken the inner self. In an essay he titled, The Vision of the Fool, published in 1947, Collins described ‘an enormous decay in spiritual fertility, a society without culture, a winter of human life’ (Keeble, p.73) which could only be prevented by ‘The Saint, the artist, the poet, and the Fool’ who support ‘the existence of a new life ... and the coming of light’ (Keeble, p.81).

Further reading:
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

Heather Birchall
September 2002

About this artwork