Recent digitization work on the Special Collections fine art holdings has exposed the paintings and sketches of Anna Kavan (1904-1968), an enigmatic British author and painter who struggled with depression much of her creative life. Acquired as part of the Anna Kavan collection, over 200 individual paintings, sketches and a number of sketchbooks are joined to correspondence, photographs, writings, and personal papers.
It is striking how personal and open the artist appears with these paintings. Borrowing from a variety of modernist styles, she moves from Cubist landscapes and robotic-like people to Impressionistic scenes that tell a story. A few seem whimsical and almost primitive in style. Then there are the myriad self-portraits, some ghostly in nature and others portraying an attractive woman. Together, they flesh out an amazing, creative individual willing to share her troubled soul with those willing to look.
The paintings and sketches cataloged to date seem to emulate the special language Kavan developed for the books written after a nervous breakdown. These use word forms of dreams, a sense of alienation from others, and a tangible instability in characters and situations. She dealt with her clinical depression in a way only those closest to her recognized.
In time, these cataloged records will be available for access on-line along with many others that reflect the artifacts and fine art held by The University of Tulsa.
– Guest post by Deborah Burke