London Art@Site Michael Ayrton Icarus

Michael Ayrton



Distaff Lane Garden
The sculpture is by British artist Michael Ayrton (1921-75) and dates from 1973. This is a prime example of this late period of Ayrton’s work. A large majority of his work was centered on the myth of Daedalus and Icarus (the City also owns his 'Minotaur').
The ancient myth that inspired Ayrton, became a life long obsession. He found ‘the ambition. which led both to the triumph and fall of Icarus…both heroic and ridiculous.’
Icarus, also known as Icarus III, is an outdoor 1973 sculpture depicting the Greek mythological figure of the same name by Michael Ayrton, installed in Old Change Court in the City of London, in the United Kingdom.
Ayrton worked in a multiplicity of avenues such as painting, sculpture, stage design, writing (he was the art critic for the Spectator), illustration, and radio broadcasting. Despite his frequent battles with illness, he traveled extensively and had a prolific career. His work is to be found in important public collections, notably the Tate Gallery, London and the MOMA in New York. There is a second example of this variant in the RAF Museum in Hendon, but on a smaller scale.
This sculpture was recently temporarily removed to allow redevelopment of the immediate environment; it was fully conserved and reinstated in 2018 on a new plinth. For the City of london we regularly maintain over 80 public sculptures, fountains and plaques including this sculpture, which was erected in memory of Bernard Sunley (1910–1964), a prominent property developer.
Michael Ayrton (20 February 1921 – 16 November 1975) was a British artist and writer, renowned as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designer, and also as a critic, broadcaster and novelist. His sculptures, illustrations, poems and stories often focused on the subjects of flight, myths, mirrors and mazes.
He was also a stage and costume designer, working with John Minton on the 1942 John Gielgud production of Macbeth at the age of nineteen, and a book designer and illustrator for Wyndham Lewis's The Human Age trilogy. An exhibition, 'Word and Image' (National Book League 1971), explored Lewis's and Ayrton's literary and artistic connections. He also collaborated with Constant Lambert and William Golding.
Beginning in 1961, Michael Ayrton wrote and created many works associated with the myths of the Minotaur and Daedalus, the legendary inventor and maze builder, including bronze sculpture and the pseudo-autobiographical novel The Maze Maker (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967). In 1969, he designed the Arkville Maze. He also wrote and illustrated a satirical novel, Tittivulus or The Verbiage Collector (Max Reinhardt, 1953; designed by Will Carter), an account of the career of a minor devil whose original remit was to collect slovenly performances of the Divine Office in monasteries, but who develops, as the centuries pass, into a collector of all kinds of verbiage, and finally, in the modern age, mounts a fascistic revolution in Hell. Ayrton was also the author of several non-fiction works on fine art, including Aspects of British Art (Collins, 1947).