John Deth

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John Deth (Hommage to Conrad Aiken)-Edward Burra 1932

Edward Burra frequently exhibited with the Surrealists during the late 30’s, including at the sensational International Surrealist Exhibition held at London’s New Burlington Galleries, which famously featured Salvador Dali attempting to give a lecture in an old-fashioned deep sea diving-suit while holding two hounds on a leash and having to be rescued from suffocation and death by the poet David Gascoyne.

Burra’s John Deth is a lurid phantasmagoria that displays in full the strong macabre streak that ran through his paintings. Skeletons were a frequent motif, sometimes used to comic effect, sometimes with darker intent.

Conrad Aiken was the American poet who was the mentor to the novelist Malcolm Lowry, whose masterpiece Under the Volcano tell the story of Geoffrey Firmin, the alcoholic British Consul to Quauhnahuac, a small Mexican town, on the Day of the Dead. Filled with occult allusions and symbolism, the  hallucinatory Under the Volcano is one of the great modernist novels of the 20th century.

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32 thoughts on “John Deth

  1. Wonderful to see Burra here. His work, always experimental and evolving, never abandoned such historically established artistic principles such as correct perspective, tonality and colour balance. This made him unfashionable during the turmoil of mid- late C20th modernism. But Burra was not driven by fashion just his integrity and joy for life and humanity.

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  2. Such fabulous characters! I can just picture Dali, ha-ha! The painting is fantastic with its strong red and blue. Great theme, Day of the Dead is captured so well, not disturbing, just creepy and surreal. Very interesting Mr. Cake. ~ Miss Cranes

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      1. Sorry crossed wires, the next series which I just post the first one of is connected but a slight departure. It’s about the Scandinavian origins of modernism, Hamsun, Strindberg, Munch and Kierkegaard. Wow that’s really guaranteed a massive audience.

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  3. Another great painting. The Día de los Muertos certainly runs through this as a central theme. The embracing of death: does it make it easier to face? “But if it’s a law, and not a penalty, why lament it?” Quevedo: rough translation.

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