Ian Hamilton Finlay

Midway II


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925–2006
Screenprint on paper
Image: 565 × 687 mm
Purchased 1983

Display caption

The American defeat of Japan at the Battle of Midway in June 1942 was one of the decisive moments in the war in the Pacific. Finlay represents the aircraft carriers as beehives, fuelling their warriors with honey
and sending them out to attack the enemy hive. The rosebushes represent the vast distance of ocean that separated the rival fleets, which never came into sight of each other. The accompanying print uses Latin text to commemorate the ships that perished in the battle. Finlay associates Latin with the epic nature of warfare.

Gallery label, July 2008

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

Catalogue entry

P07933 Midway II 1977

Two screenprints [P07932-P07933] each approx. 22 1/4 × 27 (565 × 687), printed at Girdwood and published by the Wild Hawthorn Press in an edition of about 300
Not inscribed
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1983

The Battle of Midway in June 1942 marked the turn of the war in the Pacific to America's favour. Finlay's image, composed of a sheet of lettering in Latin and English at the right and an image of beehives with the names of ships at the left, represents the Japanese and American aircraft carriers whose planes, fuelled by petrol piped like honey through hives, flew far to engage the enemy, although the ships themselves did not come in sight of one another. The rosebushes represent the lush distances of ocean which concealed the rival fleets. Finlay frequently uses Latin, as in this and other works described here, to signify the epic or the arcane.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

You might like

In the shop