Cecil Collins was born in Plymouth. He drew and painted from an early age and after working briefly as an engineer (like his father), Collins enrolled at Plymouth School of Art. He later studied at the Royal College of Art, London, from 1927 to 1931. Collins painted visionary subjects, inspired by nature and by the writings of William Blake. He was associated briefly with the Surrealist group, exhibiting with them in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London. However, Collins broke away from the Surrealists after 1938 to pursue his own artistic agenda.