James Barry

Philoctetes in the Island of Lemnos

1777–1808

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
James Barry 1741–1806
Medium
Etching, line engraving and aquatint on paper
Dimensions
Image: 454 x 372 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1992
Reference
T06575

Display caption

Barry was one of several artists who took subjects from history in order to express a view about their own times. The meaning of such pictures becomes clear when the viewer knows the original story and the artist's intentions. Because of the smell from a wound in his foot Philoctetes was banished by Ulysses to Lemnos. Barry admired the politician George Savile who supported the American War of Independence. Like Philoctetes he was an 'outsider' among his countrymen. Barry dedicated this print to him. Blake's history paintings and Prophecies are rooted in a personal mythology quite unlike the classical Greek source of Barry's 'Philoctetes'. But Blake's work can still be 'read' like Barry's.

Gallery label, September 2004

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