Flying Too Close to the Sun explores myths in art from classical to contemporary

Vadim Zakharov, Danaë, 2013, installation view, Russian Pavilion, Giardini, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. Picture credit: Daniel Zakharov / Photography & Art, www.danielzakharov.de / Courtesy of Vadim Zakharov

The adventures of gods and heroes, both triumphant and tragic, have exerted an enduring grip on our imagination and made huge impact across Western culture, from literature to Hollywood movies, from music to advertising.

These stories, characters and themes have also served as inspiration and subject matter for art throughout history.

Flying Too Close to the Sun: Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary by Phaidon is the first major survey to reveal the ways in which these famous tales have inspired artists throughout the last 3,500 years.

Spotlighting twenty-five of the most celebrated Greek and Roman myths, this ground-breaking book considers well-known characters Icarus, Narcissus, Prometheus, Pandora, Midas, Venus and Oedipus, as well as telling the stories of Helen of Troy, Jason and Medea, Hercules, the Minotaur, the Cyclops and Odysseus. Exploring themes of love and lust, envy and rage, rejection and loss, violence and death, these compelling tales have been told and retold for millennia, mirroring aspects of the human condition that are as relevant now as when the Greeks first imagined them.

Flying Too Close to the Sun features over 200 artworks from antiquity to the present day, from painting, sculpture and etchings to photography, installation and video art. Alongside masters such as Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Titian, it includes some of the most prominent artists of the 21st century, such as Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Cy Twombly and Mark Wallinger. In so doing, it demonstrates how contemporary practitioners seem increasingly inspired by these ancient stories – just as artists have been for centuries.

Carefully curated into striking and thought-provoking juxtapositions of works, this stunning book unites artworks old and new, highlighting not only the myths themselves but also the development of art from antiquity to present day. Seen through the lens of classical mythology, even well known artworks are shown in a new light, gaining new vigour and relevance when seen alongside modern and contemporary art.

Flying Too Close to the Sun: Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary is published by Phaidon. You can purchase the book at phaidon.com.

Roger Hiorns, Untitled, 2005–10, bench, fire and youth, dimensions variable; Installation view, ‘British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet’, Hayward Gallery, London, 2011. Picture credit: © Roger Hiorns. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018

Roger Hiorns, Untitled, 2005–10, bench, fire and youth, dimensions variable; Installation view, ‘British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet’, Hayward Gallery, London, 2011. Picture credit: © Roger Hiorns. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018

Frederic Leighton, Daedalus and Icarus, c.1869, oil on canvas, 138.2 x 106.5 cm (541⁄2 x 42 in), Faringdon Collection, Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, UK. Picture credit: Universal Images Group/REX/Shutterstock

Frederic Leighton, Daedalus and Icarus, c.1869, oil on canvas, 138.2 x 106.5 cm (541⁄2 x 42 in), Faringdon Collection, Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, UK. Picture credit: Universal Images Group/REX/Shutterstock

Mat Collishaw, Narcissus, 1990, print on resin coated paper, 19.3 x 29.2 cm (71⁄2 x 111⁄2 in), Tate, London. Picture credit: Courtesy of the artist and Blain Southern

Mat Collishaw, Narcissus, 1990, print on resin coated paper, 19.3 x 29.2 cm (71⁄2 x 111⁄2 in), Tate, London. Picture credit: Courtesy of the artist and Blain Southern

Artist Unknown, Orpheus and Eurydice, 1st-century AD copy of 5th-century BC Greek original, marble, 118 x 100 cm (461⁄2 x 391⁄2 in), Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Picture credit: Shutterstock: Alinari

Artist Unknown, Orpheus and Eurydice, 1st-century AD copy of 5th-century BC Greek original, marble, 118 x 100 cm (461⁄2 x 391⁄2 in), Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Picture credit: Shutterstock: Alinari

Ursula Mayer, Medea, 2013, still from colour film, 12 minutes. Picture credit: © Courtesy the artist

Ursula Mayer, Medea, 2013, still from colour film, 12 minutes. Picture credit: © Courtesy the artist

Fabrice Monteiro, Untitled #2, 2013, Baryta print, 100 x 150 cm (391⁄4 x 59 in). Picture credit: Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Fabrice Monteiro, Untitled #2, 2013, Baryta print, 100 x 150 cm (391⁄4 x 59 in). Picture credit: Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Maria Lassnig, Woman Laokoön, 1976, oil on canvas, 193 x 127 cm (76 x 50 in), Neue Galerie Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum, Austria. Picture credit: Neue Galerie Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. © Maria Lassnig foundation. Photo: N. Lackner / UMJ

Maria Lassnig, Woman Laokoön, 1976, oil on canvas, 193 x 127 cm (76 x 50 in), Neue Galerie Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum, Austria. Picture credit: Neue Galerie Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. © Maria Lassnig foundation. Photo: N. Lackner / UMJ

Richard Deacon, Laocoön, 1996, steamed beechwood, aluminium and steel bolts, 4.3 x 3.6 x 3.6 m (14 ft 11⁄4 in x 11 ft 111⁄4 in x 11 ft 81⁄2 in), Collection Leschot Foundation, Switzerland. Picture credit: Richard Deacon / Photo: Dave Morgan

Richard Deacon, Laocoön, 1996, steamed beechwood, aluminium and steel bolts, 4.3 x 3.6 x 3.6 m (14 ft 11⁄4 in x 11 ft 111⁄4 in x 11 ft 81⁄2 in), Collection Leschot Foundation, Switzerland. Picture credit: Richard Deacon / Photo: Dave Morgan

Flying Too Close to the Sun Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary Published by Phaidon

Flying Too Close to the Sun Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary Published by Phaidon