ActeonArtist(s)Kurt SeligmannArtist NationalityAmerican (North American)Object Creation Date1947Medium & Supportetching on paperDimensions
11 3/4 in x 8 3/4 in (29.8 cm x 22.2 cm)Credit LineMuseum PurchaseLabel copy
At the request of art critic Nicholas Calas, seven Surrealist artists collaborated on a print portfolio published by Brunidor Editions, in New York, whose director was Robert Altmann. The artists were Max Ernst, Stanley William Hayter, Wifredo Lam, Matta, Joan Miró, Kurt Seligmann, and Yves Tanguy. The etchings were printed in Hayter’s Atelier 17, while the lithographs were pulled in the studio of Alfred Jones.
Calas’ introduction to the portfolio turned on the age-old controversy between line and color, in which line or form is seen as relating to thought, while color or light is considered pertinent to emotion. Excerpts from his essay, entitled "Saper Vedere" (To Know How to See), are given in italics in the labels accompanying each of the prints from the portfolio, all of which are exhibited here. Calas describes not only what these artists "see" with their imaginations, but also what he as a critic "sees" as he interprets the inherent meanings of these prints.
University of Michigan Museum of Art director Jean Paul Slusser in 1947 showed himself to be in the vanguard of contemporary trends in his recommendation that this portfolio be acquired in the very year it was published.
No artistic medium is more suitable to the evocation of the spirit of alchemy than that of engraving . . . When looking at Seligmann’s baroque figures advancing with Faustian self-assurance towards the unknown—which is not necessarily unknowable—our confidence in man, the maker of his destiny, is reasserted.
As with The Myth of Oedipus, Seligmann again chose a subject derived from Greek mythology, this time the story of the hunter Acteon who unwittingly saw the virgin goddess Artemis at her bath. Artemis punished Acteon; he was changed into a stag and then killed by his own hounds. The central feature of this myth is the metamorphosis from man into animal; such a transformation would have been appealing to the Surrealists, and Aceton’s horns and the hound attacking him are evident in the composition.
Label copy from exhibition "Dreamscapes: The Surrealist Impulse," August 22 - October 25, 1998Subject matter
This print is part of a portfolio published by Brunidor Editions, New York, the portfolio's namesake, at the request of art critic Nicholas Calas. The portfolio includes seven prints from a number of prominent Surrealist artists, including: Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Stanley William Hayter, and Yves Tanguy. Calas’ introduction to the portfolio turned on the age-old controversy between line and color, in which line or form is seen as relating to thought, while color or light is considered pertinent to emotion. Calas describes not only what these artists "see" with their imaginations, but also what he, as a critic "sees" as he interprets the inherent meanings of these prints.
Seligmann's contribution, plate six of seven, shows a Surrealist scene of the hero from Greek mythology, Actaeon. In Ovid's "Metamorphonese," Actaeon is turned into a stag and devoured by wolves after seeing the goddess Artemis at the bath. The horned projections from the figure's head and the skeletal nature of its body suggests that this is an image of Actaeon, but after his gruesome death. Seligmann began to create Surrealist work in the 1930s, while continuing to focus on his most important subject: man. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist was living and working in New York at the time during his exile from Europe during World War II.Physical Description
In this print, there is a large creature in the center, to the left. The figure seems to be semi-hollow and missing its flesh. There are bones and other monsterous creatures to the right of the print. The artist signed (l.r.) "K. Seligmann" and numbered (l.r.) "57/70" the print in pencil.Primary Object Classification Print Primary Object Typeblack and white printCollection AreaModern and ContemporaryRights
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modern and contemporary art
mythology (literary genre)
skeletons (animal components)