Victoria and Albert Museum

The world’s greatest museum of art and design

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Three Moderately Cautionary Tales

Three Moderately Cautionary Tales

'Three Moderately Cautionary Tales' is a series of fifty hard-ground etchings in three cycles: each cycle loosely follows the narrative arc of an epiphany. The etchings draw their imagery from a wide range of sources—Eadweard Muybridge, Jorge Luis Borges, magazine images, pictures from e-bay, Old Master paintings, Wittgenstein, Kurt Schwitters, and the artist’s nephew.

'The Gilderbook' (from which images 2 and 3 are taken) narrates the protagonist’s unrelenting pursuit of beauty. The etchings trace his obsession with gilding and its effect on his world, and the progressive incorporation of gold leaf in the etchings formally mirrors the encroachment that they narrate; the narrative bleeds into the form. 'Hieronymus the Lion Tamer' is about the hope of transformation. The hero’s attempts to escape from a vocational malaise lead the surrender of a talent and the pursuit of a new one. The talents are opposites but a similarity—through the historical association between the lion and the bee—lingers . 'Alfred’s Library' (which the first image begins) describes over-zealous pursuit of knowledge which turns out to be fragile; Alfred’s solace is found in rest.