Exhibitions: Cecil Collins. Early Drawings, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 15 March - 13 April 1991 Twentieth Century British Paintings and Drawings, James Hyman Gallery, 1 August - 27 September 2002. 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
This important early drawing dates from the artist's student days at the Royal College of Art and is one of few such drawings still in private hands: the majority of work from this period was subsequently bequeathed to the National Art Collections Fund, which in turn distributed them to regional public galleries. Indeed such is the rarity of this work that not even the Tate Gallery collection possesses a comparable composition of such ambition.
As Cecil Collins's widow, Elisabeth, commented: There are extremely few works left from those Royal College days; 'Maternity' (1929) and some drawings, including 'From the Agony of Man's Thoughts Springs a New World'. Cecil used such phrases from the very beginning. These fine drawings were always well received by many of the teachers. The students were interested, but the tutors found them unsuitable, especially the one where God Flies from the World - a subject they did not encourage, perhaps. (Elisabeth Collins, 'Cecil Collins. A Memoir' in catalogue, The Vision of the Fool. Early drawings by Cecil Collins, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1991, p. 7-8)
Collins' early sketchbooks from his RCA days, stored at the Tate Archive, include life drawings and studies of anatomy and extracts of dialogue, a combination of word and image, which reached fullest early expression in God Has Flown from This World', where an inscription beneath the image reads:
'god has flown from this world, Ho! ho! ho! What a flight! you cannot dissociate [sic] war and Disease from that universal reprobate - God (Antoni Valois) - My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me Christ's own words upon the cross Matthew Chp. 25, verse 46 you may be sure of the worm (perhaps it is out of my Sickniss [sic] that I make a god) (Pascal).'
The grand design of this drawing corresponds to the artist's own description of his compositional style as clear and lucid showing a preference for long harmonic rhythms. (Biographical note in the artist's hand, Cecil Collin's papers, Tate Archive, 9126.96.36.199.3)This key drawing thematically prefigures Collins' most important early oil painting, The Fall of Lucifer (1933), and represents the artist's earliest treatment of the principal strand of his artistic oeuvre, the loss of Paradise.
With thanks to Dr. Judith Collins and the Tate Archive for their assistance in the compilation of this entry.