Emanuel Swedenborg | influence

Cecil Collins

The artist Cecil Collins, is widely identified as the William Blake of the 20th Century. Indeed there can be no doubt that he was heavily influenced by the aesthetic style and transcendental philosophy of the radical Blake - and thus by the ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg. Unlike most artists of his generation, Collins' interests were as much spiritual as they were artistic. He claimed that there is no such thing as art for art's sake. In fact, the artist carries a sacred responsibility; art is the lifeblood of the relationship between mankind and the Divine.

In his work Collins depicts an 'unseen world', which can be compared to Swedenborg's spiritual world. This world is defined by emotive, often mystical landscapes suggesting the regenerative power of nature and its source in the Divine; a white cloud appeared to him as 'the gateway to paradise'. In this way Collins' imagery recalls both Swedenborg's vision of a 'New Jerusalem' and his belief in 'correspondences' manifest in nature. Collins' motifs of the 'angel' and the 'fool' also echo the ideas of Swedenborg. He understood angels as 'the spiritual intelligence that connects all worlds', whilst the fool is the ideal state of man - receptive to angelic influence and to the spiritual meanings which abound in nature. As the critic Peter Fuller explains, 'the fool does not see the world with the disillusioned knowingness of the scientist; rather he marvels, with the eyes of a child'. As in Swedenborg's heaven, the ego is not welcome in Collins' 'unseen world'. One must seek meaning elsewhere.

See the Tate website for images of Collins' work.