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Vernon Hill

1887 - 1953

Leaping Flame by Vernon Hill

Leaping Flame   c.1928

  Original etching with additional work in pencil.
Inscribed and titled in pencil.
S 380 x 218 mm; P & I 340 x 162 mm
Original Vernon Hill etching.

Unique working proof impression with pencil alterations by Vernon Hill throughout the image. Inscribed by the artist in pencil with the original title "Leaping Flame" and annotated by Hill "Rough proof touched with pencil".

Exceptionally strong proof impression with pronounced etched line. Unique hand-worked proof with intended alterations sketched in pencil by Vernon Hill, prior to the only published edition of 30 numbered proofs (it is thought unlikely that the edition was ever printed in full). This proof is inscribed by Vernon Hill with his original title for this work, namely Leaping Flame; Hill changed this title to Sweeping Flame prior to publishing the plate in 1929.

The brilliant etched work of Vernon Hill is outstanding in its expressive depiction of the human form. One of Hill's most evocative etched works,Leaping Flame possesses the elemental nature of the work of William Blake, at once graceful, expressive and yet striking in its power. In this marvellous symbolic image the naked figure rises spirit-like as he becomes engulfed by the all consuming flames – the artist has portrayed agony, anguish and despair at the destructive force of fire.

Vernon Hill’s etched works date from between about 1910 and the early 1930’s. They display an extraordinary and highly individual technique through which contours are defined by deeply bitten, long, unbroken etched lines. Brightly lit areas are left entirely unshaded and unmodelled, the white of the paper on which the etching is printed creating the natural highlights of the work.

Vernon Hill produced at least one other etching of this style of subject. Although very similar in design, portraying a naked figure being consumed by fire, it is worked on a much smaller scale. An impression of this much smaller work was acquired by the British Museum in 1915 and is now in the Department of Prints and Drawings.

This powerfully symbolic work is one of the most expressive of Vernon Hill’s highly individual etchings. Indeed, Leaping Flame shows Vernon Hill’s mature etched work at its height. Rarely has any British etcher interpreted one of the ancient elements of this world with such force. This exceptionally strong proof printing has an extraordinary three-dimensional effect produced by the deep etched lines characteristic of the artist’s printed of works. Indeed, the impression is so strong that the image can be seen when looking at the reverse of the sheet simply from the contours formed by the etched lines as the sheet was pressed in printing.

On the pale cream wove paper with full margins and deckle edge. Lower righthand corner of sheet uneven in outer margin. Generally very good condition for a proof of this nature. Image surface excellent.