Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
James Hyman is proud to present a specially curated exhibition for Masterpiece London, Metamorphoses and the Art of Love, inspired by the poetry of Ovid. The exhibition takes as its starting point Ovid’s celebrated Metamorphoses with its compendium of Greek and Roman myths concerning transformation, and his Ars Armatoria (Art of Love), a three-part instructional guide to love and seduction.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses addresses the theme of transformation, most often of human beings into other natural forms. The exhibition includes key works that explore this theme. A centre piece is provided by one of Ivon Hitchens greatest and largest paintings, The Fountain of Acis. Inspired by the nymph Acis’s transformation into a stream, it includes not only a Greek temple but also a voluptuous depiction of beloved Galatea side the water. Man Ray’s unique, large-scale, solarised nude – which we will display for the first time in London - also directly echoes Ovid. Although untitled, it makes direct references to depictions of Narcissus gazing at his reflection. The pose echoes antique marbles of the subject, whilst the folds of a rug suggest ripples of water.
Altogether more controversial was Ovid’s Ars Armatoria, which at a time of a new morality, including the promotion of monogamy by Emperor Augustus, may have seemed too liberal in its treatment of adultery, and contributed to Ovid being exiled from Rome. The three books of Ars Armatoria address first, how to find women; second, how to seduce them; and finally, how to prevent others from stealing them. Ovid also addresses what a woman should do to keep a man. The tone, however, is parodic, witty and playful. Humour is often close at hand as Ovid advises 'not forgetting her birthday', 'letting her miss you - but not for long' and 'not asking about her age' and instructs women on 'making up, but in private', 'being wary of false lovers' and 'trying young and older lovers'.
The exhibition includes exceptional photographs by some of the greatest photographers in the history of the medium, from the earliest days of photography through to more recent times, among them rare vintage prints by David Bailey, Edouard Baldus, Hippoltye Bayard, Roger Fenton, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Charles Negre, Man Ray, William Henry Fox Talbot and Edward Weston. A select choice of key paintings that address the theme of the exhibition will also be included. Prominent among them are an important early Pop Art painting by Patrick Caulfield and a major canvas by Ivon Hitchens.
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