Untitled (possible study for the Iliad)
Brush and ink on prepared posterboard
Gift of Virginia Kelsey, Class of 1958W; 2006.9.5
For artistic inspiration the sculptor, illustrator, and printmaker Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) turned again and again to literature—from the ancient Greek epics and Old Testament to modern poetry and fiction. Born into a prominent rabbinical family, he received extensive religious training before devoting his life's work to art. Many of his images reflect the often tortuous, horrific, and anxiety-ridden state of human existence described in these literary texts.
He created this drawing while he was at work illustrating Richard Lattimore's translation of Homer's The Iliad in1962,and it may relate to that project. Its iconic Janus-head with two faces looking in opposite directions is a central motif in his work, as is the hybrid raptor-man. In 1970, Baskin wrote: "Inevitably I couple man and bird, pairing their monstrousness, a device of deadliness, a mutuality of terror. The predacious in man and bird melded to typify man's uglier nature, to join man to the intentless beast, to render acutely perceptible man's stupefying, intentful, capacity for horror."
Virginia Kelsey, a former student of Baskin’s at Smith College, donated this drawing along with three others and a woodcut. Here they join an extensive collection of works by this prolific and influential figure.
Last Updated: 11/14/06