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Etna, Sicily

Keith Grant (born 1930)


Signed, inscribed with title and 'to David +
Geraldine with affection, Keith + Gisele', and dated 1965 and 20.6.66

Watercolour and bodycolour with oil pastel, ink and pencil on board

15 ½ x 16 ½ inches

'Keith Grant: Metamorphosis', Chris Beetles Gallery, April-May 2016, No 5;
'A Century of British Art: 1945-2010', Chris Beetles Gallery, 5 October-6 November 2021, No 339


Keith Grant has made two trips to Sicily. The first took place in 1964, when he, ‘drove all the way down Italy from France – right the way down to the south’ (as he has explained in conversation). On his second visit, in September 1977, he took a group of his students from Hornsey College of Art, and they pitched tents in the grounds of a hotel on the slopes of Mount Etna. While working up sketches that he had made on the first trip to Sicily, Keith recollected in his journal the experience of viewing Mount Etna:

I remember watching the smoke issuing from the crater (I was at Taormina), interested and moved by the slow rhythmic beauty of the white smoke column against the sky. I bridged the distance between it and myself until I had separated all else from it. I felt myself a part of the blue atmosphere and the swaying trunk of steam, peaceful like a lullaby, and yet an uneasy peace, charged with the ever present menace of sudden explosion. It was something compelling, fascinating, like a snake which is charmed. (in his journal, 3 March 1965)

On the second trip, his head was full of Stéphane Mallarmé’s sensual poem,
L’après-midi d’un faune, which is set on Sicily, and Claude Debussy’s symphonic Prélude, which it inspired. He remembers:

I was very interested in
L’après-midi d’un faune and the evocative music of Mount Etna, and the mood of it, and the Roman connection, and all sorts of echoes … from the Classical side of my interests … I was fascinated by the places there they had developed, made, and Sicily was an amazing place for that. (in conversation, 9 September 2010)

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