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  • Lucas Cranach Adam and Eve
    Lucas Cranach I
    Adam and Eve 1526
  • John Martin, 'The Garden of Eden' 1821
    John Martin
    The Garden of Eden 1821
    Watercolour on paper
    frame: 482 x 594 x 18 mm
    support: 194 x 264 mm
    Presented by the Art Fund (Herbert Powell Bequest) 1967
  • Charles Mahoney, 'Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden' exhibited 1936
    Charles Mahoney
    Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden exhibited 1936
    Oil on canvas
    support: 914 x 762 mm
    Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1942© Tate
  • William Blake, 'Satan Exulting over Eve' circa 1795
    William Blake
    Satan Exulting over Eve circa 1795
    Colour print, pen and ink and watercolour on paper mounted on canvas
    unconfirmed: 432 x 534 mm
    Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Essick Foundation, Edwin C. Cohen and other benefactors honouring Martin Butlin, Keeper of the British Collection 1967-1989, 1996
  • Damien Hirst Adam and Eve
    Damien Hirst
    Adam and Eve (Banished from the Garden) 1999

The theme of this exhibition can be broadly characterised as the contemporary consequences of the original myth of the fall from grace. Most cultures have their version of a lost, golden past. In the Bible, Eden is a lush Paradise from which Adam and Eve are expelled after eating forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Ancient Greek myths also spoke of a Golden Age of innocence which was destroyed when Pandora released misery into the world by opening a box she was told not to open.

The idea of this fall from grace has had an enduring power, and some of the most celebrated European works of art deal with the theme. Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve focuses on the moment when Eve offers Adam the forbidden fruit. Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights is a three-part altarpiece which shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on the left panel, while in the centre is a world in which men and women indulge in all kinds of sinful pleasure (the ‘Earthly Delights’), and on the right is a vision of the torments of hell. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes show the suffering of Adam and Eve as they are expelled from the Garden.

Later artists who continued to examine this theme include William Blake and JMW Turner. The Tate Collection has several examples, including works by John Martin and Charles Mahoney which focus not on temptation and sin, but simply on the Garden of Eden as a blissful place of delight and perfection.