Signed and numbered 4/12
Brown with dark brown patina
Height: 27 1/2" (70 cm)
Conceived and cast in 1975
Provenance: Dominion Gallery Toronto
David C. Wooley Collection, Toronto acquired fromthe above, May 1976
Michael Ayrton was a true renaissance man; he was a sculptor, painter, printmaker of figures and landscapes, illustrator, draughtsman, theatrical designer, film-maker, writer and art critic.
The Whitechapel Art Gallery held the last solo show of Ayrton’s drawings and paintings in 1955, after this date he turned to sculpture. He greatly admired and took advice from Henry Moore, who helped with the technical development of the medium. His work is represented in important public collections including Tate and The Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Ayrton was fascinated by Greek Mythology, especially the Daedalus myth. In this story, King Minos employed Daedalus to build a labyrinth to imprison his Minotaur son. Having constructed the maze, the King realised that Daedalus was the only one who knew its secrets, so imprisoned him and his son Icarus in a tower. To escape, the ever-brilliant Daedalus created a pair of wings from wax and feathers for himself and his son. The young man leapt from the tower and flew like a bird away. However, he refused to heed his father’s words, and came too close to the sun and the wax in his wings melted, sending him to his death.
Various forms of the Minotaur, the maze, Daedalus and Icarus feature in Ayrton’s sculpture, as he sought to reinterpret mythological ideas in terms of the figure through his powerful style. It was also the larger themes of the myth that he sought to explore. As the artist himself explained:
Since 1964, most of my work has been concerned with the image of a man in a labyrinth...Thus the maze has come to serve for me as an image of my own life and indeed of any individual’s life. Every man, it seems to me, makes his maze out of his experiences, his circumstances, his hopes and fears, and in it he lives, so that the shape of it identifies him.
Every maze is therefore different, for each is personal and yet various. Each is a prison and a sanctuary, a journey and a destination...it contains him wholly and he extends it all his life.
In July 2013 a cast of Aryton’s monumental Arkvillle Minotaur sold at Christie’s for £205,000.