Flying too Close to the Sun: Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary

James Cahill. Phaidon, $59.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7523-1
Curator Cahill leads this ambitious visual tour of art inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, from the ancient frescos in Greek tombs to modern photographic interpretations. Each chapter opens with an accessible summary of a well-known myth, followed by an impressive variety of visual artwork inspired by that myth. The transformation of nymph Daphne into a laurel tree is depicted both literally, as in Bernini’s marble sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, and abstractly, as in Jean Arp’s 1955 bronze sculpture Daphne. Some of the works rely on Cahill’s analysis to draw out the mythological references, as when he likens a snapshot of contemporary artist Tracey Emin sprawled out on the floor clutching banknotes at her crotch to the myth of Danaë and the Golden Rain. Frequently, the juxtaposition of images helps underscore thematic similarities: Caravaggio’s 16th-century painting of Narcissus mirrors the composition of a 1990 photograph by Mat Collishaw; both pictures, Cahill points out, present Narcissus not as an idealized beauty like in the myth but as a realistic representation of man. Wide-ranging in scope yet highly accessible, Cahill’s dynamic study serves as a great introduction to mythology by way of art history and vice versa. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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