Cecil Collins



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Cecil Collins 1908–1989
Watercolour and charcoal on paper
Support: 512 × 385 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 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).

In this bold and simplified drawing, a woman, who appears to be seated on the ground, gazes downwards in profile, her face without expression. The eternal feminine figure or the Anima (the feminine component of a male personality) is a recurring figure in Collins’s drawings and prints. He remarked in an interview in 1979: ‘Woman as soul. Very important, I think, because that’s what’s missing from modern education and modern civilisation, and also the feminine is the receptacle of divine mystery’ (quoted in Keeble, p.123).

Further reading:
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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