The myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus who flew too close to the sun is a subject that has fascinated artists for centuries. The story was one that I investigated and tried to interpret for a project as a student at St Martin's. I wasn't particularly happy with the outcomes all those years ago, so I returned to the theme last year and have been drawing, gilding and cutting feathers ever since, and have created two new designs, one of which I shared in my last post. This post is an opportunity to examine how other artists has interpreted Icarus' tale.
In Greek mythology Icarus and his father Daedalus (a genius craftsman who had constructed the labyrinth for King Minos which imprisoned the Minotaur) were themselves trapped on Crete by King Minos. To escape Daedalus, created two pairs of wings for himself and Icarus from wax and feathers. Before escaping he warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, as the wax holding the wings together would melt. However, overcome by the exciting sensation of flight, Icarus failed to heed his fathers warning and soared too close to the sun which melted his wings. He then sadly plunged into the sea and perished. It is an interesting tale of the relationship between father and son and also thwarted ambition. Below are a selection of famous paintings and sculptures through which various artists interpret the tale of Icarus, from the devising, construction and fitting of the wings, the take-off and flight, and then the sense of panic and inevitable fatal descent. I look forward to seeing the examples by Matisse soon at Tate Modern.
Anthony Van Dyck
Charles Paul Landon
Herbert James Draper