Ian Hamilton Finlay

Et in Arcadia Ego (1976)

About this artwork

This carved stone sculpture refers to a famous painting of the same name by the seventeenth-century French painter Nicholas Poussin, which shows a group of shepherds looking at an inscription on a tomb in a pastoral setting. The title is a ‘memento mori’ in Latin which can be translated as ‘I am also in Arcadia’, as if spoken by the personification of Death. Just as Poussin hints that even in an idyll death is present, so Finlay uses the image of modern warfare to remind us of the way we invade the world of nature with our weapons. The hills and trees can be found in the Poussin painting and although the tomb has become a tank made of bricks it is nonetheless a powerful symbol of death.

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  • title: Et in Arcadia Ego
  • accession number: GMA 1583
  • artist: Ian Hamilton FinlayScottish (1925 - 2006)
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Sculpture
  • subject: Death
  • date created: 1976
  • measurements: 28.10 x 28.00 x 7.60 cm
  • credit line: Purchased 1976
  • copyright: © By courtesy of the estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Finlay was born in the Bahamas to Scottish parents, who returned to Scotland when he was a child. He attended Glasgow School of Art for a brief period but began his career as a writer of 'concrete poetry'. Finlay's work investigates the power of images and symbols, particularly those associated with militarism, politics, classicism and nature. Creating an analogy between war and the forces of Nature, he highlighted the thin line that exists between creation and destruction, order and disorder, culture and chaos. His art presents a challenging and often complex fusion of poetry, graphic design and sculpture. In 1966 Finlay moved to a farmhouse in the Pentland Hills, south of Edinburgh, where he created a sculpture garden called Little Sparta to display his artworks in a natural setting.