Death, A self portrait

We are ready for the end of the world, we have our main crop in the loft and to prepare the mind I went to the Wellcome Collection last night.  Richard Harris, a former antique collector from Chicago has amassed a wonderful and diverse collection of art, artefacts and ephemera from  around the world  and 300 treasures are on display in the Wellcome collection galleries.  Kim and I also spotted the Wellcome collection mouse in the cafe, lucky mouse, the cakes are good.  The first gallery is dedicated to the contemplation of Death, Memento Mori means REMEMBER YOU WILL DIE, and that makes it easier, for some.  So there were lots of images of the skull as an aid to meditation.  I loved Thomas A E Chambers work ‘The Bad Man at the Hour of Death’ and these two below.

Memento Mori – Wellcome Images courtesy of the Richard Harris Collection

Ray Johnson, Untitled (Skulls with fingers and eyelash) Collage on Board, 1985 – 95, copyright Ray Johnson Estate

Room 2 was called The Dance of Death.  Among the many Mexican offerings, there was Posada’s amazing Calavera de Huerta, but also Walter Sauer’s woodcut Danse of Death from 1925, skeleton’s having fun in the graveyard.   There was a lot of humour in the exhibition, but at the centre of it all, an appropriately grave study of violent death.  Otto Dix made a portfolio of 51 prints entitled ‘Der Krief’ (War), Dix fought on the Western Front, where he was wounded many times, the prints are bare-faced and nightmarish and so brilliant.  I’ve never seen them before.  They are displayed near a small selection of some of Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ (1810-20) and Jacques Callot’s ‘The Miseries and Misfortunes of War’ (1683).  There’s a room about Sexuality and Death, with a cabinet display of those absorbing metamorphic postcards, the final room is about commemoration, ritual and connecting with ancestors.  It’s all good stuff and I’m ready now, bring it on.

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