Son of William Tell

Photocopy on brown paper, reworked with maker and correction fluid

The tale of the freedom-fighter William Tell, based on events that took place in 16th-century Switzerland, was popular in the 19th-century in Hungary, when, like the Swiss before them, the Hungarians were struggling to liberate themselves from the domination of Austria. Rather than emphasize the heroic aspects of the story, however, Peter turns his attention to the great man’s son, and the way in which his brush with death may have had a traumatic effect. The figure’s dress and the style of the print evoke the illustrations of 19th-century children’s books, but whereas such illustrations tend to celebrate the comfortable world of the prosperous upper-middle class, this image emphasizes the danger that lurks in the world at large, of which the boy, with his startled glance, only just seems to have become aware. Comical as it may first seem, the image also has a serious, even frightening edge: the arrow is a possible reference to the Hungarian fascist party, the Arrow Cross, from which Peter, as a young man, had been forced to hide, and the anxiety expressed in the figure’s face may owe something to the artist’s later experience of life under Soviet domination.

© Copyright 2013. MellerWorks LLC