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Maps, Borders, and Networks

Artists use maps to tell stories about themselves and their views of the world.


Map of an Englishman

Grayson Perry
(British, born 1960)

2004. Etching, Sheet: 44 1/8 x 59 1/16" (112.1 x 150 cm)

To make Map of an Englishman, Perry used the traditional techniques of etching and photogravure and borrowed the style and lettering of 16th- and 17th-century cartography. But instead of locations, this map depicts behaviors and psychological states, including bodies of water named Psychopath and Delirium and landmarks named Happiness, Cliché, Spit, and Bad Manners. The landforms resemble the two halves of the brain, with a left and right side. Perry said, “I tended to put the darker, more subconscious things on the bottom right, because that’s where they are in the brain.”1

Perry employs humor and irony to make works of art that critique accepted social and cultural norms. The map could be interpreted as both a universal and a specific representation of identity: “A lot of people think it’s generally like an Englishman,” the artist has said. “It is an Englishman. It is me.”2

Grayson Perry quoted in "Grayson Perry," by Charles Booth-Clibborn, in Contemporary Art in Print, ed. Etienne Lullin and Florian Oliver-Simm (London Paragon Press, 2007), 326.
Grayson Perry quoted in "Grayson Perry," by Charles Booth-Clibborn, in Contemporary Art in Print, ed. Etienne Lullin and Florian Oliver-Simm (London Paragon Press, 2007), 326.

In printmaking, the flat surface onto which the design is etched, engraved, or otherwise applied.

A printmaking process in which a photographic negative is transferred onto a copper plate.

An intaglio printmaking technique that creates thin, fluid lines whose effects can vary from graceful and serpentine to tight and scratchy. An etching needle, a fine-pointed tool, is used to draw on a metal plate that has been coated with a thin layer of waxy ground, making an easy surface to draw though. When the plate is placed in acid, the ground protects the areas it still covers, while the drawn lines expose the plate and are incised, or “bitten,” by the acid. After removing the coating, the plate is inked, filling only the incised lines. Damp paper is placed on the plate and run through a press, forcing the paper into the incised lines to pick up the ink.

New Art, Old Map
Perry used four plates to create Map of an Englishman. The gaps between where the plates were printed resemble crease lines, as if this were an antique map that had been folded over and over.

Perry’s Inspiration
Perry was inspired to make this work when, at a friend’s house, he saw a world map that the British artist Emma Kay had drawn from memory. He was also influenced by The Map of Tenderness, which the author Madeleine de Scudéry designed for her novel Clélie. Scudéry gave water and villages names such as Indifference, Indiscretion, Negligence, and Mischief.