The Restless Prophet and his Raven

A detail from my painting The Prophet Fed by a Raven is on the cover of the novel Cai by  Eurig Salisbury, awarded the Gold Medal for Prose at last week’s National Eisteddfod. The book is published by Gomer.



Eurig Salisbury, winner of the the Gold Medal for Prose, National Eisteddfod 2016.

Of all the paintings I’ve made, this one has probably been on the most interesting journey. Since it was shown at MoMA Machynlleth in my Saints and Their Beasts exhibition in 2007 it has lived in the home of its owners in the USA, though thanks to their generosity it returned to Wales for my Retrospective in the Gregynog Gallery of the National Library of Wales in the Summer of 2011.


In 2010 the painting had a surprising outing onto the cover of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. (This was at the suggestion of a friend who would be embarrassed to be credited for her kindness here, but it must be acknowledged nevertheless, albeit without revealing her identity.) Some time later the painting appeared in a calendar issued by the journal

When in 2013 Oxford University Press published a collection of essays and covers from the EID, The Prophet Fed by a Raven was selected as the cover image.


Back at home in North Carolina it came out of it’s frame to be photographed –


– to generate an image large enough for a display in the exhibition of EID journal covers at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Association with the Smithsonian Institution. (More thanks here, this time to the owner of the painting who went to untold troubles to get it to the photographer and back.)


In 2010 it appeared between the covers of a a weighty tome, Biblical Art from Wales, edited by Martin O’Kane and John Morgan-Guy.


Anita Mills, who wrote so thoughtfully about my drawing practice in Clive Hicks-Jenkins: a Monograph (Lund Humphries 2011) presented a swift, entertaining and insightful deconstruction of the painting that completely took me by surprise. Click on THIS link to read  it.

Marly Youmans wrote a beautiful poem in response to The Prophet Fed by a Raven that can be read HERE.

hicks-jenkins 018.jpg

I like the idea of a painting of mine travelling and having adventures. I’m gratified that people see it who have no idea who I am. For them there is just the prophet, the flaming raven and the scattering of sheep on the Welsh hillside beyond. I don’t think an artist could ask any more of a painting than to be out there and speaking for itself.


For Z.B., M.Y. and A.M., my friends across the ocean.

the lost prophet


My friend Zoe Blue has sent me this image of a reproduction of The Prophet Fed by a Raven presiding splendidly at the entrance to an exhibition at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta. The exhibition is sub-tiled Art in Science,  Emerging Infectious Diseases being a journal famous for the artworks that for many years have graced its covers. Not only did the prophet and his raven appear on the magazine, but the painting was then selected by the then Managing Senior Editor, Polyxeni Potter, as the cover for a collection of EID essays published last year by Oxford University Press. Polyxeni has recently retired from the journal, and the exhibition is a fine tribute to her time in post there.

It tickles me to see The Prophet Fed by a Raven (or in this case, a reproduction of it) out in the world and having adventures. Beyond the two figures is the old sheep-dotted lead-mining landscape above the home of our friend Pip Koppel, where Peter and I lodged for a year while we looked for a house. The horizon line was all I could see from the high window in the studio of Pip’s late husband, Heinz Koppel, whose easel I worked at. The earthenware mug in Elijah’s hand is one of those Pip made in her pottery studio as a house-warming gift to Peter and me when we finally moved into Ty Isaf.

People often ask me who the model for Elijah was. He was the older half-brother of a godson of mine, and was never present in the studio, but painted from memory many years after I’d last seen him. We’ve long lost touch. I should think he’ll be in his mid to late thirties now, and won’t ever have known that his younger self appeared here, cast as a green prophet.


Read Marly Youmans’ poem, HERE.

The Book of the Phoenix

The Book of the Phoenix, 1: 1-40: The Prophet Fed by a Raven

In my last post I engaged in a conversation with Marly Youmans that continued into the comment box. Replying to what she’d said about the post, I confessed to just how much I love The Book of the Phoenix, 1: 1-40: The Prophet Fed by a Raven, written for her chapter in the monograph about my work published by Lund Humphries in 2011. That made me think about where it might be read by Artloggers, given that I don’t think it’s seen the light of day anywhere save in the pages of the monograph. So here, for those of you who don’t have a copy of that and haven’t therefore read Marly’s response to my painting of The Prophet Fed by a Raven, is her beautiful poem.


1    Behold! I am the raven who is phoenix,
2      The reusrrection bird,
3    And I will feed you like a mother,
4      I who am also the resurrection man,
5    Who brings wine in a cup and bread –
6      The bread and red wine of my body I give you,
7    And the cup of wine that will become yours,
8      The fifth cup saved for Elijah at Passover seder.
9    Would you sit reflective in red and blue,
10    An icon claiming heaven’s colours?
11   Not for you is the songbird settled in a nest:
12     For you is the slow burn and the car of fire.
13   Would you dally here with the bread
14     And the wine, elements of me?
15   Eat and drink; go
16     Into the rough elements of wilderness –
17   Go! Thrust yourself
18     Into the world where the children of Israel
19   Crouch before fireless Baalzebub.
20     Don’t linger on this stage-set of a window
21   Where a painter might lay out the mug
22     – With dots that might be sheep or clouds –
23   Next to a carved pelican or nautilus shell
24     Or a girl balancing the candle’s flame on her head –
25   No, no comfort’s for you, Baal-battler, fire-bringer,
26     Actor on hardest boards, foe of Ahab and Jezebel!
27   See that backdrop of uptilted green
28     With the sprinkling of cloud-fleece above,
29   With the scattered sheep of a flock? My flock!
30     They do not know what to make of you,
31   Orphan of the wilderness, nestless Elijah –
32     They wonder and name you no mortal man
33   But an angel green and wick with life:
34     So green you crackle in the fire of me.
35   Three things I promise you:
36     When I lend you my phoenix fire,
37   You shall drag a man out of Death.
38     Your words shall burn down centuries.
39   You shall, at the close, go up in flame.
40     Selah.



Marly Youmans. 2011


The Prophet Fed by a Raven at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum: In Association with the Smithsonian Institution

The prophet and his raven have had an interesting series of adventures since leaving my attic studio here at Ty Isaf, both the painting itself and images of it in print. It first appeared in my exhibition Saints and their Beasts at MoMA Wales in 2007.


Frances McDowall of the Old Stile Press and Robert Meyrick of Aberystwyth University School of Art, in front of The Prophet Fed by a Raven at the opening of Saints and their Beasts, MoMA Wales, 2007.

The painting was acquired by friends of ours who shipped it to their home in the US. Four years later it was crated up again and returned to Wales to be shown in my 60th birthday retrospective at the Gregynog Gallery of the National Library, and our friends followed it in order to be present at the opening. Currently it’s safely back with them in the US again.

Several years ago Polyxeni Potter, then Managing Senior Editor of A Journal for Our Times: Emerging Infectious Diseases, made a request for an image of the painting as the cover for an edition of EID. There is a splendid tradition, established by her, of using paintings on the covers of the journal, and I was very happy to have my work selected to be a part of it. In due course a copy of the magazine arrived, and some time later, a EID calendar too, in which the painting featured.

When in 2013 Oxford University Press published a collection of essays and covers from the EID, The Prophet Fed by a Raven was selected as the cover image. Polyxeni wrote to me at the time:

‘I have to mention that for our book cover, I sent several options to the designers at Oxford, who, I know, are all young graphics design people. Your image came first right from the start. There’s something there!’

Elijah as a cover-boy: Polyxeni Potter, Oxford University Press, 2013.

Not long afterwards I received another e-mail from Poly:

‘Just wanted to let you know that the CDC museum is planning to have an exhibit of EID journal covers, the second one in 10 years. The museum curator wants to use the cover of our Art in Science book, featuring The Prophet Fed by a Raven, on the front entrance wall of the exhibit. Would be very striking and should not hurt the book, which will be available for sale throughout the exhibit (May through September). But the electronic file we used for the book is not large enough for this use. Is it possible to get from you a larger file?’   

My own file was not big enough. Not even close. Over in the US my friend who owns the painting gamely re-photographed it hanging in her home, though it turned out that not even that file was big enough. So she valiantly removed the prophet from his frame and took him to a local professional photographer’s studio, where he and his corvid companion were captured at high resolution… about a gazillion megabytes, as far as I can make out… for reproducing at the exhibition.

The absent prophet!

And there he is, the prophet with his raven, at the top of this post, greeting visitors to the CDC Museum. (Together with another friend of mine… and fellow-artist… Zoe Blue.) I’m rather stunned that the painting has been able to withstand reproduction at such magnification, and in fact appears to have thrived on digital growth hormones!

My thanks to everyone who helped with this. (And there were many.) But especial thanks to Zoe… who will know why… and to the friend who remains nameless in this post, but who went to so much trouble to ensure that an image of The Prophet and his Raven would preside so splendidly at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. To you, my dear, the biggest of hugs, and my undying gratitude for so many kindnesses and generosities.


Sketch for The Prophet Fed by a Raven