Michael Ayrton (1921-1975)

Ayrton was an English artist and writer who worked as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designer, and also as a critic and broadcaster.

He was also a stage and costume designer, working with John Minton on the 1942 John Gielgud production of Macbeth at just 19 years old. He designed and illustrated Wyndham Lewis’ The Human Age trilogy. He also collaborated on projects with Constant Lambert and William Golding.

In 1977 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery held a major retrospective of his work which subsequently went on tour.

Michael Ayrton (1921-1975), Siren, 1963


9½ x 4 x 2½ in (24 x 10 x 6 cm)
Cast 0/9

Collection: The Artist’s estate until the present day

Literature: Peter Cannon-Brookes Michael Ayrton 1978, pl. 180; C.P. Snow Michael Ayrton 1966 fig. 158; J. Nyenhuis Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus 2003 (380)

Siren grew out of a series of journeys that Ayrton made, first to Cumae near Naples and then to Greece and Crete. Peter Cannon-Brookes suggests that the figure was inspired by the Cumaean Sibyl who, in a story recounted by Ovid, requested perpetual youth.

Her body appears stripped to the bone, fused to the tripod on which she sits. Her fate became a demonstration of the damage inflicted by the gods on their chosen victims and of the shifting, unreliable nature of divine intervention.

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