Edward BurraEdward Burra

The Danse Macabre

Edward Burra was drawn to disreputable subjects and the dark side of humanity. His extraordinary images of dancing skeletons and sinister bird men led him to be grouped with the Surrealist artists, although he was not entirely comfortable with this label. Fascinated by the supernatural, horror movies, and science-fiction novels by cult authors such as HP Lovecraft, he also looked to the work of artists of the past such as Francisco Goya and Hieronymus Bosch for inspiration.

During the 1930s Burra witnessed the Spanish Civil War first hand, which informed the violence of paintings such as ‘Beelzebub’ (c.1937-8) and ‘War in the Sun’ (1938), and in the Second World War he created powerful images of monsters to represent the terror of the war, such as ‘Blue Baby, Blitz over Britain’ (1941). His capacity for conveying a sense of threat and violence was not only present in dramatic images such as ‘The Straw Man’ (1963) but also in his floral still life paintings, which are full of an atmosphere of sinister unease.