Related themes

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, Grayson Perry used the traditional printmaking techniques of etching and photogravure and borrowed the style and lettering of 16th- and 17th-century cartography. But instead of locations, his map depicts behaviors and psychological states, including bodies of water named Psychopath and Delirium and landmarks named Happiness, Cliché, Spit, and Bad Manners. Its central landforms resemble the left and right halves of the brain. Perry explained that he “tended to put the darker, more subconscious things on the bottom right, because that’s where they are in the brain.”1

Perry incorporates humor and irony into his work to critique accepted social and cultural norms. Map of an Englishman could be interpreted as both a universal and 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.

The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

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.

In popular writing about psychology, the division of the mind containing the sum of all thoughts, memories, impulses, desires, feelings, etc., that are not subject to a person’s perception or control but that often affect conscious thoughts and behavior (noun). The Surrealists derived much inspiration from psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s theories on dreams and the workings of the subconscious mind.

A distinctive or characteristic manner of expression.

The visual portrayal of someone or something.

A work of art on paper that usually exists in multiple copies. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through a transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface, such as metal or wood, and the transfer occurs when that surface is inked and a sheet of paper, placed in contact with it, is run through a printing press. Four common printmaking techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint.

A long mark or stroke.

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
Grayson Perry used four plates to create Map of an Englishman. The gaps between the plates resulted in the appearance of thin lines on the print. These lines resemble crease marks, as if this were an antique map that had been folded over and over again.

Grayson Perry’s Inspiration
Perry was inspired to make this work when, at a friend’s house, he saw a world map that fellow 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 like Indifference, Indiscretion, Negligence, and Mischief.