Edward Burra

Drag Queen


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Edward Burra 1905–1976
Etching on paper
Image: 298 × 251 mm
Presented by Alexander Postan 1973

Catalogue entry

Edward Burra b.1905

P03010 Drag Queen 1972

Etching, 11¾ x 9¾ (29.9 x 24.8) on Sanders paper, 19 x 18¿ (48.2 x 46.7).
Each print inscribed below the plate‘40/75’ b.l. and ‘E J Burra’ b.r.
Presented by Alexander Postan 1973.

P03008 to P03010 were printed by the Print Workshop and published as a folio of three etchings by Alexander Postan in 1972.

The following note is based on information kindly supplied by Alexander Postan (letter of 24 January 1974).

Although Burra made a group of woodcuts between 1928 and 1930, including P01002 to P01005 he did not produce any more prints until 1971 when Alexander Postan proposed to him that he should etch three prints. Burra had not etched before and was quite interested in trying what was, to him, a new medium, although the process of etching is comparable to drawing, which the artist has done throughout his career. Postan supplied him with three zinc plates, one in the autumn of 1971 and two more in spring 1972. Burra used an etching point and a ‘handy’ kitchen fork for the etching and etched ‘Mrs Pot’ in October/November 1971, ‘Wednesday Night’ in March 1972 and ‘Drag Queen’ in April 1972. He did not make any preparatory sketches.

‘Mrs Pot’ combines etching and aquatint and Postan wrote:’. . . after Ed had worked on the zinc plates there were large areas of cross-hatching that would have printed rather oddly as a straight open bite. An aquatint ground was accordingly laid over the areas in question to realise the intended effect. . .’

‘“Mrs Pot” was produced on a prompt from me as I have always liked the teapot/kettle series which date from the forties [like ‘Birdmen and Pots’ 1947 and ‘It’s all boiling up’ 1948] ... It is in all probability a combination of a public house, art gallery—note the spot light—and a Bantingesque satire in the manner of “The Blue Book of Conversation” [1946]. The other prints were his own choice of subject.’ The artist told the compiler (5 February 1974) that they were based on a drag club in Hastings which he and John Banting used to visit in 1971.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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