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.