Cecil Collins

Adam and Eve


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Ink and graphite on paper
Support: 260 × 209 mm
Bequeathed by Elisabeth Collins, the artist's widow, through the Art Fund 2001


Throughout his lifetime Collins pursued his vision of a lost paradise, destroyed by the mechanisation of the modern world. Using 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 has ceased to exist in the ‘Machine Age’ (quoted in Keeble, p.73). Many of Collins’ aims and beliefs were published in an essay 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).

Collins produced many images with a Christian theme, for example The Angel with Adam (1950), Christ Before the Judge (1952) and The Agony in the Garden (1956). In The Vision of the Fool stated:

The greatest fool in history was Christ. The great fool was crucified by the commercial pharisees, by the authority of the respectable, and by the mediocre official culture of the philistines. And had not the church crucified Christ more deeply and subtly by its hypocrisy than any pagan? This Divine Fool, whose immortal compassion and holy folly placed a light in the dark hands of the world.

Further reading:
Judith Collins, Cecil Collins: A Retrospective Exhibition, Tate Gallery, London 1989
William Anderson, Cecil Collins: The Quest for the Great Happiness, London 1988

Heather Birchall
September 2002

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