Cecil Collins

Seated Nude


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Etching on paper
Image: 307 × 196 mm
Bequeathed by Elisabeth Collins, the artist's widow, through the Art Fund 2001


Collins pursued his vision of a lost paradise, destroyed by the mechanisation of the modern world, throughout his lifetime. Creating his own versions of archetypal figures, such as the Fool and the Angel, he attempted to reveal to us our innermost selves. These figures, he believed, represented an innocence that had ceased to exist in the ‘Machine Age’ (Keeble, p.73). Many of Collins’s aims and beliefs were promoted in an essay he 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).

In many of his drawings details of the pose, such as in this case the shading of the eyes, may have been intended to have a particular significance. The model for this seated, classically posed nude may be Collins’s wife, Elisabeth, who appears in many of his paintings and prints, including The Artist and his Wife, 1939 (Tate T07733). Collins experimented with several different print-making processes, including etching and roneo printing. This simple print, with smooth, flowing outlines, was created by means of a wax paper stencil through which 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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