I am always on the lookout for artists who work with or have worked with bees as their subject matter. Recently I found the catalogue for a beautiful suite of aquatints created by the English artist Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) in 1977. Sutherland made a total of 14 aquatints, plus drawings for this project.
Here’s an extract from the catalogue’s introduction, written by Bernhard Baer:
Sutherland has been attracted to the drawing of insects in his previous work. What urged him to probe the life of the bees in this suite is the existence of a strange hermetic world, perfectly ordered and full of dramatic incidents;
the dance of the foraging bees to indicate distance and direction of sources of nectar and pollen; the emergence of the queen who proceeds to kill all rivals in their cells; the mating flight of the queen pursued by drones who die in the act of copulation; the exodus of the swarm to found new colonies.
It is the challenge of a strange and mysterious world which excites his imagination, a challenge which is at the centre of all his work:to unveil the mystery which lies behind the mystery; to probe an alien cosmos.(Bernard Baer)
The relationship and mutual dependence between bees and flowers, the most important agent in their evolution, appeals to Sutherland’s vision. He always sees all nature whole. (Bernard Baer)
Where Faust despaired of unveiling the innermost of nature,
Sutherland explores and returns with magic signs to enlighten us. His power of evocation fulfils Durer’s words:
Art is hidden in Nature, he who can pull it out, has found it.
This is my favorite image of the series, the dark depth of the hive, the queen surrounded by her attendants, contrasting with the golden light of honey (?), of the comb (?) of the sun (?) that rules the cycles of life in nature.