Cecil Collins

Fool with a Flower


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Lithograph on paper
Image: 167 × 292 mm
Bequeathed by Elisabeth Collins, the artist's widow, through the Art Fund 2001


The figure of the Fool, with a pointed hat and wearing high heels, is shown bending towards a flower, growing in bare ground. In 1942 Collins began writing The Vision of the Fool. First published in 1947, this essay highlighted his vision of what he described as the ‘mechanical jungle of the contemporary world’ (quoted in Keeble, p.74). Throughout the essay Collins links the Fool with the ‘Saint, the artist the poet’ (Keeble, p.81). He explains, ‘modern society has succeeded very well in rendering poetic imagination, Art, and Religion, the three magical representatives of life, an heresy; and the living symbol of that heresy is the Fool. The Fool is the poetic imagination of life, as inexplicable as the essence of life itself’ (Keeble, p.73). The Fool became a recurring image for Collins, appearing in many of his paintings and prints as an innocent figure who, although having no place in modern society, has the vision which is necessary to find fulfilment and eventual reward. The idea of the Fool as being an innocent victim of modern mechanised society is expressed in this image by the flower which the Fool takes obvious pleasure in discovering. Made during World War II (1939-45), the image appears even more poignant.

The technique Collins used involved a wax paper stencil through which the ink was rolled straight onto the paper. Not usually used for works of art, this ‘roneo’ duplicating process was a common piece of office equipment before photocopiers. Morphet comments that he adopted this unusual method because he was frequently moving from place to place and all the equipment for a roneo print could be carried in a small box (Morphet, p.16).

Further reading:
Richard Morphet, The Prints of Cecil Collins, London 1981, p.18, reproduced p.18
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

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