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Percy Smith

1882 - 1948

Death Awed by Percy Smith

Death Awed   1919

  Original etching.
Signed and dated in the plate.
S 287 x 395 mm; P & I 203 x 251 mm
Very rare trial proof impression printed with exceptional clarity of line and with carefully wiped plate tone. This impression was the artist’s own master proof and the extreme outer edges of the sheet have pinholes where it was once attached to Percy Smith’s studio tackboard. A trial proof prior to printing the edition which was issued in the series of seven etchings entitled The Dance of Death. Very few trial proofs of Percy Smith’s works have ever come to light.

The Dance of Death is considered to be Percy Smith’s greatest series of etchings. One of the most important and solemn statements on the First World War in art, it shows seven visions of Death in various roles, amongst living, dying and dead soldiers. Of these Death Awed is the masterpiece. This image, in its stark simplicity, epitomises the tragic horror of war. The shrouded figure of Death pauses on a duck-board amongst the water-logged battlefields to contemplate two boots in the mud with the broken bones and flesh still protruding from them. Etched almost at one sitting, this eloquent yet appalling vision is the ultimate statement on the most destructive war that the world has ever known.

The prominent etcher E.S. Lumsden commented on this etching in his leading work The Art of Etching (London, 1925) “…this great etching sums up the whole horror of war. It is expressive of no one period, but of all periods…in time these plates will, I feel sure, be looked upon as the most searching commentary…produced in this country: perhaps in any.”

On warm white wove paper, with full margins and deckle edge. Generally very good original condition, especially for a trial proof of this nature.