Cecil Collins

Head of a Woman


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Roneo print on paper
Image: 223 × 157 mm
Bequeathed by Elisabeth Collins, the artist's widow, through the Art Fund 2001


In an interview in 1979 Collins described his numerous drawings of heads: ‘For me the head is the combination, or climax, or the flowering of the human nature. In the head is condensed and focused the whole reality of the person. That’s why I think I’ve done so many heads. To me it’s the most beautiful part of the human body. In fact you can say the head is the theatre of the soul’ (quoted in Keeble, p.120). Frequently Collins incorporated the head into a tree or a landscape and became what Morphet has described as ‘a kind of spiritual personification of the landscape it inhabits’ (Morphet, p.17). The large nose and eyes, and the sculptural shape of the face are similar to the facial features of women in some of Picasso’s paintings of the 1920s, for example Seated Woman in a Chemise, 1923 (Tate N04719). The model in this work may be Collins’s wife, Elisabeth, who appears in many of his paintings and prints, including The Artist and his Wife, 1939 (Tate T07733).

This simple print, with smooth, flowing outlines over a roughly shaded background, was made by using a wax paper stencil through which the ink was rolled straight onto the paper. Not usually used for making works of art, this ‘roneo’ duplicating process was a common piece of office equipment before photocopiers. Morphet comments that Collins 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
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
October 2002

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