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The series began when the Library series ended in 2016. Looking at some of her unfinished paintings that had accumulated over the years – some large floral watercolours, some pastel landscapes – Lillian decided to try to rescue them and use them as grounds for new work. The lush flowers suggested the theme of Paradise to her and she turned her mind to the idea of depicting the Fall of Man and the Expulsion.
By then she was hardly painting at all, with the exception of applying gold leaf and other related activities that didn’t require the use of the brush.So her task with to find a suitable Adam and Eve from art history, since she was no longer able to paint them. The most appropriate ones turned out to be by the Renaissance painter Masaccio, whose depiction of our first ancestors being expelled by a hovering angel holding a sword to prevent their re-entry, proved to be ideal. It showed the anguish which they immediately experienced, and provided a perfect foil to the verdant foliage of Paradise.
The first several of these works showed this contrast – of huge luxuriant flowers and foliage, with minute figures of Adam and Eve shown in the bottom corner, almost invisible (a bit like Brueghel’s Fall of Icarus, where you first see a vast landscape, and almost by accident, come upon the tiny figure of Icarus falling into the sea).
Several versions of this image were created, gradually evolving into more and more anguished expressions on the part of Adam and Eve. With her computer and printer, Lillian altered the scale of the figures – sometimes just centring on the faces, sometimes printing on tracing paper and letting the background come through.
The series gradually became more sombre, with the Lament of Adam, where his grief is almost palpable in dramatic colour variations of his face. The Garden has disappeared, to be replaced by a desolate rocky landscape onto which they were thrust. These works were shown in the ‘Refuse’ exhibition in Bath (2017), which depicted the plight of the homeless.
Reverberation shows Eve lamenting through the ages – the echo of which still reaches us. Culminating this section of the work is the Virgin Mary, often said to be the redeemer of Eve, holding her as a small child.
From this unrelenting imagery, Lillian decided that she had to turn the images round, and show the hope and the light at the end of the tunnel. From this turnaround came the images showing at the top of the work the icon depicting the harrowing of Hades, where Christ went down to Hell after his crucifixion and opened the gates, liberating those trapped there – the first being Adam and Eve.
At this point she felt that the series needed a little light relief, so she turned to Ethiopian iconography for inspiration. Her son Nicholas always liked these bright, childlike images and they proved the perfect foil for the darker work that preceded them. Their almost comic aspect revealed Adam and Eve as more embarrassed than grief stricken. The series took her to the end of 2016 and she had just turned 85, with flagging energy, and little inspiration. At this point, Lillian truly believed that her picture-making days were over.
She was to be proven wrong.