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Ian Fleming

1906 - 1994

Hellish Symphony by Ian Fleming

Hellish Symphony   c.1940

  Original etching.
Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.
S 229 x 296 mm; P & I  155 x 206 mm
Original Ian Fleming etching.

Superb signed proof impression with clear line and strong contrast, printed under considerable pressure on strong ‘plate’ paper. The number ‘1’ proof from the intended edition of 30 impressions.

Hellish Symphony is Ian Fleming’s ultimate symbolic statement on the blitz of the Second World War. Beneath a sky pierced by searchlights the factory chimneys and dense housing of an industrial city are illuminated by the fires caused by incendiary bombs alone. No lights pierce the blackened windows of the houses as they lie under the dark tarpaulin of night. In the foreground, the skeletal figure of Death orchestrates events from on high, conducting the chaotic sounds of bombs, gunfire, sirens and the engines of unseen aircraft into the Hellish Symphony of the print’s title. At the centre of the image a graveyard, set at the foot of a cathedral, stands attendant, waiting to receive the victims of Death’s opus to the human destruction of war.

In this outstanding etching, Ian Fleming has combined elements found in First World War art by C.R.W. Nevinson and Percy Smith, together with the industrial townscapes of L.S. Lowry, but in his own extraordinary style, to create an unique symbolic image which epitomises the destruction of our cities during the aerial bombardment of the Second World War. Nevinson and Percy Smith had both been involved in the art of the First World War; however, during that war the land of Great Britain had remained largely beyond the reach of its enemies. By the time of the Second World War when the reach of our enemies had increased, the effects of the depression and advances in colour reproduction techniques had all but wiped out the market for original etchings. Consequently, Ian Fleming stands alone as a great etcher to record the effects of the first modern war to inflict serious damage upon cities and civilians at home.

The Glasgow etcher, Ian Fleming, was trained in printmaking by Charles Murray, Malcolm Osborne and Robert Sargent Austin. Ian Fleming’s youth caused him to arrive on the etching scene after the market had collapsed and, as a result, this talented printmaker’s work has never been fully catalogued. Having begun with distinctly individual topographical drypoints and line engravings, Ian Fleming’s work became increasingly independent and modernistic as his career progressed. His Second World War etchings marked a pronounced move away from purely topographical scenes of everyday life towards evermore unusual viewpoints and sometimes symbolic content. After the war Fleming moved towards a more minimal modern style, though elements of Celtic symbolism remain apparent throughout much of his later work. A significant and influential teacher of art, Ian Fleming is fast becoming regarded as one of the most significant Scottish etchers of his period.

On pale cream wove ‘plate’ paper with full margins and deckle edge. Very fine original condition.