Catalogue entry

Leslie Hurry 1909-1978

T04150 Medea's House, Corinth1948

Watercolour, wax crayon and chalk on paper 404 x 480 (16 x 19)
Inscribed ‘Rough sketch Medea Leslie Hurry 1948' b.r. Presented by John Hurry Armstrong the artist's nephew in appreciation of Ronald Alley's services to the Tate Gallery 1986
Prov: Bequeathed by the artist to John Hurry Armstrong 1978
Exh: Leslie Hurry, The Minories, Colchester, Oct.-Nov. 1987 (107, as ‘Medea's Palace at Corinth')
Lit: F.S.,’Medea', Theatre World, vol. 44, Nov.1948, pp. 6-7; The Stage Year Book, 1949, pp.80-1; The Year's Work in the Theatre 1948-9, 1949, opp. p.17

This stage design is for the 1948 Edinburgh Festival Production of Euripedes' ‘Medea', adapted by Robinson Jeffers, which was directed by John Gielgud. In September 1948 the play transferred to the Globe Theatre in London. Two costume designs by Hurry, for Medea and for the Chorus of Athenian women, were also exhibited at Colchester in October 1987.

John Gielgud asked Hurry to design the set and costumes after admiring his designs for the ballet and play of Hamlet (1942 and 1944). This Hamlet was reviewed as an outstanding success, and Hurry's drawings were exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1945. His next designs, for Turandot at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, were shown at Roland, Browse & Delbanco in June 1947 while the opera was being performed. The exaggerated perspective of the Medea design follows a similar design in Turandot, although in the earlier production the detail was far more elaborate.

Another version of this design (private collection), slightly smaller, is inscribed ‘Rough/Medea. Leslie Hurry 1948'. The general arrangement is the same, but the temple is made of rectangular slabs rather than columns. In the Tate Gallery's version the architecture looks like the temple of Minos at Knossos. A third set design was exhibited at Roland, Browse and Delbanco in Theatre Designs and Drawings by Leslie Hurry, Oct. 1950 (72, 407 x 635, 16 x 25), which was possibly the complete design, including an extensive landscape at the left and a doorway framing the whole scene, reproduced in The Year's Work in the Theatre 1948-9.

A photograph of the play in Stage Year Book 1949shows the Chorus and Medea standing and seated on the steps of the temple, which was built out into the stage, with the landscape as a painted backdrop.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.184-5