Cecil Collins was born in Plymouth, Devon. He studied at Plymouth School of Art and at the Royal College of Art, London. For a while he was interested in Surrealism but in the later 1930s, after meeting the American painter Mark Robey, he became interested in the art and philosophy of the Far East. He taught for a time at Dartington Hall, a progressive boarding school in Devon, and published The Vision of the Fool in 1947. He frequently drew on symbolism in his work and had a special interest in the figure of the fool. This creature came to signify for him such qualities as spontaneity, purity and light, unappreciated but for the artist, in modern capitalist life. He painted some powerful faces staring out at the viewer with large sad eyes. These expressive surveys recur throughout his work and the brush strokes echo these rhythms, while pattern and detail are applied in brief dark outline. A retrospective of his work was shown at the Tate Gallery, London in 1988.