OIL PAINTING: Lament for Icarus
1894 was the beginning of Draper's most productive period. Draper focused mainly on mythological themes from ancient Greece. His painting "The Lament of Icarus" from 1898 won the gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.
The Lament for Icarus, with its liquid light effects and mastery of form, provides testimony to Draper's Continental allegiances. The painting is an imaginative adaptation of the Icarus legend which had become a popular pretext for the representation of ephebic beauty following the exhibition of Leighton's Daedalus and Icarus in 1869. The body of Icarus is shown draped almost languidly on his wings and attended by three sea nymphs who, overawed at this image of physical perfection, are shown lamenting his death. The theme of transience is reiterated by the symbols of the lyre and wreath, and through the passage of sunlight which casts an iridescent glow on distant cliffs. In developing the composition Draper adopted Leighton's method of making separate figure studies for which he employed four youthful models Ethel Gurden, Ethel Warwick, Florence Bird and Luigi di Luca, all of whom were Academy professionals. Although Draper abided by the persistent studio convention of posing male and female models separately, by the late nineteenth century audiences had come to accept the frankly erotic interaction of those models on the canvas, so much so that it was now possible to place the male nude under the desiring female gaze.