William Allen Editions, London, 2007
133 x 133 mm. Artist’s engraved glass multiple in a letterpress printed brown card box with a yellow/gold printed colophon on the inside of lid. Numbered 7/9, signed. Around the edge of the glass disc is an etched poem that reads, ‘saffron from the stamens of the lilac crocus’, and on its front facing top is an etched and painted saffron red design. Saffron is the most desirable and expensive spice in the world: it is derived from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, and has a deep auburn colour. The crocus flower resonates deeply with the history of the twentieth century avant-garde: one of its foremost figures, the Dada poet and artist Kurt Schwitters, made The Autumn Crocus in 1926-8, a curvilinear abstract form that reveals Schwitters’ exploration of combining geometry with the sinuous, organic shapes he found in nature.
The Autumn Crocus was reconstructed in 1958 and sent to London on the premise that it should be used as the gravestone on Schwitters’ grave in Ambleside, Cumbria – his home of exile during the war, and the location of his famous Merzbau. But the vicar of Ambleside refused to have the gravestone erected. When in 1970 Schwitters’ body was exhumed and moved to Hanover, the second, marble gravestone – a copy of The Autumn Crocus – was erected and remains in position.