Latin in the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay

A recent trip to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum prompted this post. The work of Scottish artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay (1926–2006) often includes text, classical references, or both. This post shows examples of classical quotation and original Latin in his work, which can be a model for a student project.

This work includes the quotation “Habitarunt di quoque silvas” from Virgil Eclogues 2.60 (apologies for the shadow which obscures the tops of the Ts). Like many other students of Latin, I find it useful to have memorable examples of particular Latin forms and this one is good for the contracted v-perfects (habitarunt for habitaverunt); see Allen and Greenough 181.

Habitarunt di quoque silvas

Photo by author, taken at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Several of Finlay’s lithographs (now at the Tate) show a hatred of the Arts Council (all showing the i-stem genitive plural):

Mors concilio artium

Ian Hamilton Finlay Death to the Arts Council 1982 © Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay

This second one has a nice gerundive, doubtless modeled on everyone’s favorite example “Carthago delenda est.” The two can be compared to illustrate the necessity of the gerundive to agree with the noun.

Concilium artium delendum est

Ian Hamilton Finlay The Arts Council Must be Utterly Destroyed 1982 © Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay

The third more pointedly (no pun intended) imitates an actual inscription, with the interpuncts and abbreviated CONC for concilium.

Pax tuguriis bellum conc artium

Ian Hamilton Finlay Peace to the Cottages – War to the Arts Council 1982
© Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Similar prints (whether individual or as a series) would be a nice, easy student project adaptable for different levels. Something like “mos + dative” could be done by beginning students, gerundives by more advanced ones.

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