April 21, 2011 - The Fruitmarket Gallery - Narcissus Reflected

April 21, 2011

Narcissus Reflected

Salvador Dalí, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus,” 1937.
Oil on canvas; 82 x 109.2 x 8.5 cm.*

Narcissus Reflected

The myth of Narcissus in surrealist and contemporary art
22 April–26 June 2011

Curated by David Lomas and Dawn Ades. 

Conceived by The Fruitmarket Gallery in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF

Narcissus Reflected is the latest in The Fruitmarket Gallery’s series of group exhibitions made by invited scholars, writers and artists. Its prime mover and chief curator is David Lomas, an academic and exhibition-maker known for his work in the fields of surrealism and contemporary art. Artists in the exhibition include: Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Claude Cahun, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Charles Henri Ford, Florence Henri, Jess, Yayoi Kusama, George Minne, Pierre Molinier, George Platt Lynes, Willard Maas, Paul Nash and Pipilotti Rist.

Narcissus Reflected explores both Narcissus and narcissism. Narcissus is the beautiful youth from Greek mythology, turned by the gods into a narcissus flower as punishment for his self-obsession and inability to love anyone other than his own reflection. Narcissism was identified by Sigmund Freud as an early stage in his account of the formation of an individual’s ego, at which they begin to be aware of their sexual drives and desires and seek a love object. The first love object they choose is their own body. In a ‘normal’ individual, according to Freudian psychoanalysis, narcissism should be only a passing phase.

In the developing tradition of Fruitmarket Gallery group exhibitions, Narcissus Reflected is a scholarly yet also personal, passionate, speculative and eclectic journey into the realm of Narcissus. At its appropriately doubled heart lies Salvador Dali’s painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) and Narkissos (1976-91) the masterwork of the San-Franciscan artist Jess. Dali’s painting is one of the most famous, most well-travelled and most often reproduced works of modern art, although this exhibition offers a rare chance to see the painting alongside the poem Dali wrote to accompany it, and a wealth of preparatory sketches and other material. Jess’s large, hand-drawn collage, by contrast, rarely leaves the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and has never before traveled outside America. This exhibition presents it together with all the material of its making—sketches, a pin board with all the collage’s sources, and a preparatory notebook.

Narcissus Reflected weaves a web of connections around these two great pictures, following the thread of Narcissus through experimental film and photography in the 1920s and 1930s and in America in the 1940s and 50s, winding up in the big, immersive contemporary environments of Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden (1966) and Pippilotti Rist’s Sip My Ocean (1996). The works in the exhibition keep in play the full variety of meanings of the myth of Narcissus, the exhibition exploring, and seeking to explain, the enduring appeal of the Narcissus subject in art.

Exhibition supported by
The Terra Foundation for American Art
Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne


Seminar: Reflecting on Narcissus

Wednesday 27 April, 5.30–8pm. Free.
Curators Dawn Ades (University of Essex) and David Lomas (University of Manchester), and Fiona Bradley (Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery) explore the themes of the exhibition and the work of Jess with art historians James Boaden (University of York) and Whitney Chadwick (San Francisco State University). Chaired by David Hopkins (University of Glasgow).

The Artist as Mythmaker
Wednesday 4 May, 6.30pm. Free.
Elizabeth Cowling (University of Edinburgh) contextualises Salvador Dalí’s painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus through the artists associated with the surrealist magazine Minotaure.

Reflections on (and of) the Antique Narcissus
Wednesday 11 May, 6.30pm. Free.
Art historian Stephen Bann (University of Bristol) examines two very different pictorial versions of the Narcissus theme in post-Renaissance painting, by Caravaggio and Nicolas Poussin, and traces the legacy of these paintings in nineteenth-century and contemporary works.

Events are supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council
To book your place call 0131 226 8181 or email bookshop@fruitmarket.co.uk

*Image above:
Tate: Purchased 1979.
© Tate, London, 2011. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2011.

The Fruitmarket Gallery
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