Herbert Draper

The Lament for Icarus

exhibited 1898

Not on display

Herbert Draper 1863–1920
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1829 × 1556 mm
frame: 2400 × 2185 × 240 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1898

Display caption

Icarus’s father, the inventor Daedalus, made wings that allowed them to fly away from their island prison. The exhilarated Icarus forgot warnings and soared too close to the sun, melting the wax that secured the feathers, and he fell to his death. Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859 gave an optimistic picture of the present and future evolution of humankind, but it also introduced ideas of a deep and obscure past. Art and literature took up this theme of origins, man’s mythical history and struggles between animal and human nature.

Gallery label, February 2016

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Inscr. ‘Herbert J. Draper’ b.r.
Canvas, 72×61 1/4 (183×155·5).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1898.
Exh: R.A., 1898 (903).
Lit: A. C. R. Carter, ‘The Royal Academy, 1898’ in Art Journal, 1898, p.182, repr.; Sir Edward J. Poynter, The National Gallery, III, 1900, p.56, repr. p.57.
Repr: Royal Academy Pictures, 1898, p.122.

An oil sketch is in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. The first drawing and a study of a Naiad were included in the artist's exhibition at the Leicester Galleries, January 1905 (13 and 60).

Icarus, son of Daedalus, fell into the sea and was drowned when flying with his father from Crete over the Aegean. Daedalus, mythical sculptor, architect and inventor of flying, made wings for himself and his son, but Icarus flew too near the sun, the wax with which the wings were fastened melted and he was killed. The Icarian sea is named after him. The artist does not appear to have read the story carefully, as he has represented the wings still fastened to the body.

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

You might like

In the shop