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3 April 2019

Modern and Contemporary Art

Lot 214

Michael Ayrton (British 1921-1975), Sleeping minotaur

Estimate £1500 - £2000 + fees

Sold Price £2800

Michael Ayrton (British 1921-1975)

Sleeping minotaur


Inscribed with initials and numbered 4/12

4 x 7cm (1½ x 2¾ in.)


Sale, Sotheby's London, 10th July 1975, Lot 161

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Michel Ayrton was a London born artist who excelled as an author, illustrator, sculptor, teacher, broadcaster and so much more. He was the son of poet and critic Gerald Gould and labour politician Barbara Ayrton whose name he assumed after his fathers death in 1936. Although, his studies were often disrupted by periods of illness, he attended the Heatherleys School of Art and then St Johns School of Art where he met his long-time friend John Minton.

At nineteen, he was commissioned to do stage and theatre set designs such as Gielgud's production of Macbeth, which he undertook with Minton. He illustrated several books such as Wyndham Lewis's The Human Age trilogy and Paul Verlains Femmes and Hombres in Lot 213.

During the war, he was conscripted into the RAF before being discharged due to his poor health. In 1942, he held a joint exhibition with Minton which secured him a teaching role at the Camberwell School of Art from 1942 1944, where he lectured in life drawing.

During the 1960s he travelled, making several trips to Greece where he was inspired by the Greek myths of Daedalus and Icarus, becoming obsessed with the concept of flight and freedom, of mazes and Minotaurs. Themes that would become central to his works of art, such as his sculptures, paintings, poems and his pseudo-autobiographical novel The Maze Maker. Ayrton considered himself very similar to Daedalus in his experiences, works of art and fascination with human flight. The myth inspired many paintings and sculptures such as Sleeping Minotaur depicted here and Maze Torso.


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