Cecil Collins


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Lithograph on paper
Image: 285 × 248 mm
Bequeathed by Elisabeth Collins, the artist's widow, through the Art Fund 2001


This lithograph depicts a nude woman lying horizontally on the ground, lifing the upper part of her body, so that her long hair falls down. Beneath her there is an ambiguous image, which might represent stars exploding across an expanse of dark sky. Collins explored many print-making techniques. Amongst his most powerful images are those created by means of lithography. This was the perfect vehicle of expression for much of Collins’s work since he could make prints from an image drawn directly. Morphet wrote that: ‘The improvisatory potential of lithography was specially suitable to Collins at a moment when he wished simultaneously to unwind, to experiment, and to explore new directions’ (Morphet, p.19).

Collins pursued his vision of a lost paradise, destroyed by the mechanisation of the modern world, throughout his lifetime. Creating his own version 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’ aims and beliefs were promoted in an essay he titled The Vision of the Fool which was first published in 1947. 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’ (quoted in Keeble, p.73).

Further reading:
Brian Keeble, The Vision of the Fool and other Writings, Ipswich 1994

Heather Birchall
October 2002

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like