Eileen Agar 1899 - 1991


Head and a Bird, 1939 is an extremely powerful and complex collage and the motifs presented necessitate various levels of interpretation. The work is essentially a self- portrait of the artist, her famous profile imagined in silhouette and cut out from flowered paper and which, becomes a symbol of the self. By divesting the face of its features, Agar enables it to become in some sense, “abstracted” so that what it holds and contains, its deep inner life and its subconscious, are liberated and given free rein.

Pictured flying in front of Agar’s profile is a cut-out of a bird. Flying from outside, it is the symbol of the flight of the imagination which brings together the outside reality and the inside reality, it is the aerial being which contrasts with the materiality of the human body but complements it by embodying its secret, subconscious wishes. The bird is a recurrent motif in Agar’s poetical statements and here, it appears here as a “real” bird flying across the artist’s head, the visitor from outside reality joining with the reality of the mind.

The leaves and flowers in the background, are depicted in wild abandon, crowning the head as if the presence of nature was unavoidable and insuperable. They also cover the whole of the body itself and here again, the limit between inside and outside is erased enabling our eyes pass from one to the other with great fluidity. These three elements form the core of Eileen Agar’s inspiration and are raised to a truly symbolic level in this work, they come to exist in a higher realms, elevated through a poetic and unique process of symbiosis.

We are grateful to Michel Remy for his assistance with the cataloguing of this work.