Exhibitions: Cecil Collins. Early Drawings, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 15 March - 13 April 1991. Sacred and Profane. Drawings from the 1920s and 1930s by Edward Burra, Cecil Collins, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, James Hyman Fine Art, London, 5 December 2003 - 24 January 2004.
An important early work, From the Agony of Man's Thoughts Springs a New World is one of the very few early drawings by the artist still in private hands.
This drawing is significant in being one of Collins' earliest works to give visual expression to a life-long conviction that 'paradise is in the minutiae of life'. From a very early age he learned "the language of the stones and grass and especially clouds and especially a white cloud which played a great part in my life later on. It seemed that this cloud was a gateway to Paradise." (Colins quoted in 'Cecil Collins. Fallen Angels' by Peter Fuller from Images of God, London, 1985, p. 125) Indeed sketchbooks dating from the same period, now stored at the Tate Archive, show the artist's preoccupation with nature in his studies of animals and particularly birds.
In this drawing, man's close relationship with nature precipitates a spiritual awakening. A young man having succumbed to the verdant luxury of a grassy hillside and the sweet birdsong of a thrush, lies sleeping, dreaming of a 'New World', which is wrapped in a cloud-like form. Beautiful dancing sylphs populate this seraphic world, whose devotional importance to man is represented by the heart clutched by the sleeping figure.
In an essay entitled 'Cecil Collins. Fallen Angels' (1983) Peter Fuller, one of Cecil Collins's great champions, addressed 'the search for secular spiritualism' that he identified in the artist's work:
"We do not doubt that the picture was fashioned through a personal vision: it is redolent of things half seen, dreamed, remembered or imagined. And yet it draws for part of its effect on an ancient iconography: that of Christian pictorial symbolism. Paradoxically, Cecil Collins infuses that iconography with new life and feeling by breathing into it the hollow whispers of death."
This luminous early drawing articulates Collins' vision of a higher world yielded through the harmonious fusion of man and nature. In so doing, it heralds the artist's career-long interest in melding earthly and astral worlds.
With thanks to Dr. Judith Collins and the Tate Archive for their assistance in the compilation of this entry.