GLAHA:17569, ‘From the Inside’, Opalka, Roman, 1969, etching, print, ink on paper

The Hunterian also holds in its collection an etching by Roman Opałka, Polish painter and etcher, who was born in Abbeville (France) in 1931 and died in Rome in 2011. He was most commonly known as the ‘painter who counts’ for in his most famous cycle „Opałka 1965 /1 – ∞” he created paintings consisting of consecutive numbers. He himself said that he wanted to be a ‘painter-hourglass’ noting that ‘klepsydra’ (hourglass in Polish) also means ‘obituary’ and this was a life-long project depicting the world and/in the passage of time.

The work in the Hunterian collection is part of the cycle ‘Describing the World’ the last one Opałka created before focusing exclusively on the ‘counting’ cycle. As such the cycle expresses ideas leading to the creation of the monumental work of a lifetime – the cycle „Opałka 1965 /1 – ∞”. ‘Describing the World’ cycle had biblical connotations and included works such as ‘Adam and Eve’, for which the artist received an award at the World Graphic Biennale in Bradford, UK in 1858 and ‘Tower of Babel’ from 1968. Whilst the work at the Hunterian is titled ‘Earth’ the title of the later version of the same print from the 70s consists of the handwritten citation from the Bible “E faro si che la tua progenie sara come la polvere della terra” which translates to English as “And I will make your offspring be like the dust of the earth”. It is followed in the Bible by the words “…so that if anyone can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can also be counted.”

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