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I c a r u s May 9, 2009

Posted by anagasto in drawing, history, painting.
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Icarus and his father Daedalus were in prison..

Daedalus was a famous architect and inventor, and he had the idea to make wings of feathers for himself and his son to escape from prison.

Icarus had a great time flying. He forgot his father’s warnings, and he came too close to the sun.

The wax melted, and he fell to his death. —

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© ghD

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Bruegel

He paints a small stretch of land and all of the sea with its distant horizon, and you can barely find Icarus even on the picture enlarged.

You look for him all over, in the sky, on the land, in the sea, until you discover him in the water, drowning close to the shore.

The picture is in public domain at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bruegel,_Pieter_de_Oude_-_De_val_van_icarus_-_hi_res.jpg

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See the man ploughing and the shepherd dogging it?
It is at dusk.
Icarus is drowning in the dark water beside the hull of the ship.

Only one man sees him fall.

bruegel icarus fragment

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the fall of icarus by chagall

Chagall

He paints a very different story: the whole town, all the people congregate on the public plaza in fear and anguish to watch Icarus fall.

In Chagall’s view everyone alive saw it coming.

There is a colour version of the same painting:

Icarus by Chagall

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Below is Ovid’s version, how the father built those wings and how he put them on his son.

The father had to hide his tears.
He understood the risk :

story of icarus by ovid

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.icarus-by-rosie-brooks

……..And finally, in Rosie Brooke‘s drawing you can see him as he probably was : just a kid.

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William Carlos Williams

He wrote a poem about Bruegel’s painting: Landscape With The Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

It is in verse and the complete text is below in GIF format:

w c williams poem icarus

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And Peter Paul Rubens’ version where the father sees the boy falling:

Icarus by Rubens

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The next painting, by Hans Bol, is from the Mayer Museum in Antwerp, and his theme is similar to Bruegel’s, but many people see Icarus fall, and they are afraid:

The picture is in public domain at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Bol%2C_Hans_-_Landscape_with_the_Fall_of_Icarus.jpg</span.

See that pretty castle, that little bridge on the left and the path leading up to it?

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© ghD

Some see Icarus and his father as examples of courage and ingenuity, and others think that the story is about pride, disobedience or even about artistic extravagance.

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W. H. Auden

There is that poem by W. Auden:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
(…)
http://poetrypages.lemon8.nl/life/musee/museebeauxarts.htm

And then he talks about Bruegel’s painting saying “In Bruegel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster….”.

But that is not true.

Auden did not get it.

People in general and those in Bruegel’s paintings do not “turn away from the disaster”, but they are not aware of it, because they are busy or for some other reason.

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A typical 19th century painter

He imagined that, when Icarus drowned, the nymphs of the sea came and wept all around him.
But the idea of those wings is nice, those immense wings.

Isn’t it instructive how sentimentalism and realism (or materialism) go together like two peas in a pod?

The_Lament_For_Icarus

The Lament For Icarus by Herbert James Draper
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/The_Lament_For_Icarus.jpg

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Comments»

1. cantueso - September 25, 2007

No. He was no devil. The story is old and has been around and retold many times, but Icarus is never pictured as a devil, more often as a tragic figure, a poet, a victim, not an aggressor.

2. ivdanu - September 26, 2007

Myself, I’m a bit partial for Lucifer… it’a not a bad thing, maybe, to be a fallen angel… You didn’t answer my question: what is the Chagall’s painting title?

3. cantueso - October 2, 2007

I do not know whether there is any other title. I googled for “Chagall Icarus”. As to considering Icarus as some fallen angel: it is like considering a Cola Light ias some Château Lafitte (spelling?). Of course it can be done…….

4. Mrs Greensleeves - July 12, 2008

I believe I saw this Chagall in an art catalog, but it was in colour, pink and brown. Besides, Chagall did paint the Fallen Angel, but it is tomato red, with large red wings taking up half the canvas vertically. Maybe it is part of his Bible series.

5. enghtj55 - October 20, 2008

Do you think that Bruegel painting is cruel?

6. Janet23 - February 26, 2012

Why were Icarus and his father imprisoned?

7. cantueso - February 28, 2012

To Janet23

Those Greek stories are too complicated to figure out clearly.

Apparently Daedalus was famous as an architect and yet jaelous of another architect of equal fame, and so he killed him. Killed the competition. Next he had to flee; then he worked for another king who had him build a maze; and there was also something about a beautiful lady….
I thought for a moment that he got lost in the maze he had built. Now that would have been a nice ending.
But I don’t think that was it……

http://aworldofmyths.com/Greek_myths/Daedalus_Icarus.html


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