Glyn Warren Philpot

Oedipus Replying to the Sphinx

1931

Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 838 x 546 x 318 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1932
Reference
N04666

Display caption

Oedipus, a figure from Greek mythology, encountered the Sphinx in the city of Thebes. The Sphinx was a monster with the body of a lion, a human head and female breasts who destroyed those who could not answer her riddle about the three ages of men. Oedipus solved the riddle and the Sphinx killed herself. Oedipus with the Sphinx was a subject used by artists from Greek vase painters of the 5th century BC onwards, but in this work Philpot offers Oedipus alone, inwardly confident in the surety of his answer. Philpot painted a mural in London in 1931 of 'Oedipus addressing the Sphinx' which depicted the two characters together.

Gallery label, January 1991

Catalogue entry

N04666 OEDIPUS REPLYING TO THE SPHINX 1931

Not inscribed.
Bronze, 33×21 1/2×12 1/2 (84×55×32).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1932.
Coll: Purchased by Colonel Thomas G. Gayer-Anderson from the artist through the Leicester Galleries 1932 and presented by him (anonymously) to the C.A.S.
Exh: Leicester Galleries, June 1932 (22); Tate Gallery, July–August 1938 (sculpture, VII).
Repr: C.A.S. Report 1932–33, 1934, p.9; Sewter, 1951, pl.119.

Miss Gabrielle Cross, the artist's niece, who owns the original plaster cast of this work, has stated that this work was modelled at the artist's home, Baynard's Manor, near Horsham (letter of 12 November 1958).

In all Philpot made fifteen pieces of sculpture of which this was one of the last; it is dated 1931 by Sewter, loc. cit. There is an oil painting of 1932 with the same title in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Other works in which the artist used the Oedipus myth are: a drawing, ‘Oedipus and the Sphinx’, done by the artist when he was thirteen or fourteen years of age, now in the possession of Miss Gabrielle Cross; a decorative mural on silver foil entitled ‘Oedipus addressing the Sphinx’ (of which only a fragment remains) done for Gwen, Lady Melchett, at Mulberry House, Westminster, in 1931; and a watercolour, ‘Oedipus and the Sphynx’, exhibited in Figure-Pieces, Portraits, Landscapes and Flower-Pieces in Oil and Watercolour, Redfern Gallery, November 1937 (51).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II