Seth, Florence (1908-1937 (active)) by Scholes, Robert

Florence Seth (1908 – 1937) She was known as a painter of miniatures, portraits, and landscapes. She studied art in London and Paris, and exhibited her workin London from 1908 to 1937. Ezra Pound noticed her “automatic paintings” in in 1915: The New Age I saw, some months since, the “automatic” paintings of Miss Florence Seth. They were quite charming. They were the best automatic paintings I have seen. “Automatic painting” means paintings done by people who begin to paint without preconception, who believe, or at least assert, that the painting is done without volition on their part, that their hands are guided by “spirits,” or by some mysterious agency over which they have little or no control. “Will and consciousness are our vortex.” The friend who sent me to see Miss Seth’s painting did me a favour, but he was very much in the wrong if he thought my interest was aroused because Miss Seth’s painting was vorticist. Miss Seth’s painting was quite beautiful. It was indeed much finer than her earlier mimetic work. It had richness of colour, it had the surety of articulation which one finds in leaves and in viscera. There was in it also an unconscious use of certain well-known symbols, often very beautifully disguised with elaborate detail. Often a symbol appeared only in a fragment, wholly unrecognisable in some pictures, but capable of making itself understood by comparison with other fragments of itself appearing in other pictures. Miss Seth had begun with painting obviously Christian symbols, doves, etc. She had gone on to paint less obvious symbols, of which she had no explanation. She had no theories about the work, save that it was in some way mediumistic. In her work, as in other automatic” paintings which I have seen, the structure was similar to the structure of leaves and viscera. It was, that is to say, exclusively organic. It is not surprising that the human mind in a state of lassitude or passivity should take on again the faculties of the unconscious or sub-human energies or minds of nature; that the momentarily dominant atom of personality should, that is to say, retake the pattern-making faculty which lies in the flower-seed or in the grain or in the animal cell. This is not Vorticism. (NA 16.11:278)

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