Philoctetes was a Greek hero, celebrated for his stoic endurance of suffering. A festering wound on his foot meant that he was left behind on the island of Lemnos while the Greek army continued its journey to Troy.
This drawing is a study for a large oil painting. Barry based Philoctetes’s body a celebrated fragment of classical sculpture, the ‘Belvedere torso’. But his notes in the corner of the drawing show a major problem facing history painters: how to suggest bodily pain without resorting to distortions of the face which would destroy the dignity of a heroic figure.
Gallery label, September 2004
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