Sunday, July 17, 2016

Stanley William Hayter's Laocoön, 1943

The story of Laocoön was told by Sophocles and others though details vary enormously. The most famous is from Virgil’s Aeneid in which Laocoön was a priest of Poseidon (Neptune for the Romans) who was killed with his sons by sea serpents after attempting to expose the true nature of the Trojan Horse by striking it with a spear. (And so we are warned to fear Greeks who bear gifts.)

The most well known image of Laocoön and His Sons is the first century sculpture associated with Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydorus, made in the Hellenistic baroque manner. It is now in the Vatican. However there are numerous other interpretations and this may in fact be a marble copy of an earlier bronze.

In the Dadaglobe Roconstructed show at the Museum of Modern Art there’s a small gelatin silver print of Jean Arp’s Laocoön, made about 1930. His inspiration was an illustration of the intestine of a dog, preserved in alcohol. It resembled his own abstract drawings. (Here’s my photo of that photo.)

Silver print of Jean Art's, Laocoön, 1920,
original photographer unknown.

Stanley William Hayter tackled the subject while in New York City during World War II. One of his most admired images, Laocoön, 1943, captures a chaotic moment in history enriched by Hayter’s technical heroics.

Stanley William Hayter, Laocoön, 1943, intaglio