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Frederick Carter

1883 - 1967

Mnemosyne by Frederick Carter

Mnemosyne   1918

  Original wood engraving by Frederick Carter and W.M.R. Quick.
Signed in pencil.
S 260 x 205 mm; I 114 x 54 mm
Original Fredrick Carter wood engraving.

Very rare signed lifetime proof impression, from the artist’s personal collection. An especially fine early proof, prior to publication in Frederick Carter, Twenty Drawings (1918).

This engraving is of particular significance in relation to Frederick Carter’s beliefs in the power of the subconscious, showing calligraphic details of the sort which he produced when experimenting with automatic drawing along with fellow symbolist, Austin Osman Spare. Carter hoped that this might prove to be a means of releasing suppressed associations and images from the subliminal, through which he, like the early alchemists, might discover the essence of life itself.

In Greek mythology Mnemosyne was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus. An immortal Titan, she was considered to be the personification of memory and her name is the source of the modern word mnemonic.

Mnemosyne is said to have slept with Zeus for nine consecutive nights and thereby created the nine Muses, the goddesses of literature, music and dance: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (the lyre and lyric poetry), Euterpe (flute playing and associated poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (hymns to the gods), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (Astronomy).

According to ancient Greek funerary inscriptions Mnemosyne presided over a pool in Hades, counterpart to the river Lethe. Whilst dead souls drank from Lethe to achieve oblivion through forgetfulness so they would not remember their past lives when reincarnated, initiates were encouraged to drink from the waters of Mnemosyne when they died so their memories would be preserved. It is these waters which Frederick Carter represents in this symbolic wood engraving.

Proof impressions from Frederick Carter’s blocks are very rare, the few proofs printed during Frederick Carter’s lifetime having been solely for private use or for distribution amongst the artist’s personal friends. This complex design was drawn directly onto the prepared wood block by Frederick Carter; the block was then cut and worked in detail by either Carter himself or his assistant, W.M.R. Quick, to produce the finished wood engraving.

On simile Japan paper, with full margins. Excellent original condition.