Christian WALLER, The Lords of the Flame. Enlarge 1 /2
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Christian WALLER

Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia 1894 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1954

  • England and Europe 1929-30
  • United States of America 1939-40

The Lords of the Flame. 1932
Collection Title: The Great Breath: a book of seven designs, by Christian Waller. Melbourne: Golden Arrow Press, 1932
Page: plate 3
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: books, illustrated books, ink; paper linocut, printed in black ink, from one block Support: thin translucent vellum, tipped onto thick cream wove paper
Manufacturer's Mark: no manufacturer's mark.
Edition State: published state
Impression: 57/150
Edition: proposed book edition of 150 (only about 30 bound up, the numbering was not chronological but based on the numerology of the purchaser); additional proofs.
Place Published: Melbourne: The Goldern Arrow Press

Primary Insc: no inscriptions.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions.
Tertiary Insc: no inscriptions.
Dimensions: printed image 31.8 h x 13.5 w cm sheet 31.8 h x 13.5 w cm page 44.1 h x 24.3 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976
Accession No: NGA 76.722.23.6
Subject: Australia, Book arts: Illustrated book
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Thirty Victoria Street [gallery], Sydney, 12 October 1976, part of a group of 65 prints by various artists.

Christian Waller’s intensely creative energy and superb mastery of the printed medium suffuses The Lords of the Flame. It is the third in a sequence of seven images from the illustrated book, The Great Breath, widely acknowledged as Waller’s finest work and the most stunning example of art deco books produced in Australia. Waller’s interest in theosophy and the divine inspired her conception and depiction of the seven steps of spiritual evolution and development.

Waller also drew upon the experience of her travels in Europe in 1929–30 where her inspiration came from ancient Greek and Egyptian imagery, the new art deco style and her study of stained glass, on which she solely focused her later career. The Lords of the Flame is imbued with Waller’s own system of esoteric code, astrological references and numerological interpretation. It displays identifiable symbols, such as the astrological sign for Aries in the top right corner and the six-pointed stars of the theosophists, yet also conceals many complex symbols only accessible to the initiated. Its mystic quality is further enhanced by the luminosity of black ink on translucent paper.

The sleek, vertical black-and-white composition of Waller’s workcharacterises the art deco style. Elongated sinuous flames emphasise the descent of the Lords through a dark void, as they levitate on flaming discs like a divine vision. These formidable figures are both compelling and inspirational. They have a god-like presence, proudly delivering divine flames to earth and, with it, their message of spiritual evolution.

Anne McDonald

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002