The Circle Of Life is an art deco allegorical avant-garde pen & ink drawing by Cardwell Higgins. This early offering by the renowned illustrator recalls the erotic and stylized work of British artist Aubrey Beardsley while considering man’s relationship to mortality. This is part of a series of similarly exotic and provocative drawings Higgins created between 1927 – 1929, which would much later be marketed as a series of limited edition art prints under the guidance of Charles Martignette in 1979. The work is finely matted and framed behind glass in a handsome silver fine gallery frame, in a presentation that includes the artist’s caption and poetic description of the artwork.
This finely executed, surreal image uses a motif of eyes, circles, and hourglass form to examine the nature of time, and the cycle of birth, maturity and death. The central circle shows a nude man and woman seeming to spin as they hold each other intertwined, with a newborn baby between them. The three figures together suggest an eye, and above them is another all-seeing eye, whereas beneath them lurks a shadowy demon suggesting the specter of death.
The artist’s full intentions with the piece are described in the poem written by the artist which accompanies the framed presentation. In full it reads:
The Circle of Life
The perfect man and perfect woman,
seeking one another in unison,
For the creation of the Perfect Child,
With the Protecting Hand of the Father
and the Supporting Hand of the Mother;
The embodiment of Father, Mother and Child
is the total life.
The Sun, supplier of the life-giving
elements necessary for survival.
The Hourglass of Time.
The Evil influence that comes into
The slowly burning candle of Life,
And the inevitable — Death!
From the vast estate of legendary art collector Charles Martignette, who befriended the artist in his retirement in Hollywood, Florida and organized a one-man retrospective for Higgins in the late 1970s.