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John Flaxman

Oedipus and His Daughters


John Flaxman
York, England, 1755 – London 1826


Oedipus and His Daughters


About 1803


Pen and ink, ink wash


18.6 x 24.6 cm


Gift of Susan Watterson, inv. 2012.189


Graphic Arts

One of the most influential artists of the neoclassical movement, John Flaxman was the most famous sculptor in England during his lifetime, with monuments in Saint Paul’s and Westminster Abbey and throughout the kingdom. By the early nineteenth century, Flaxman’s designs had become standard illustrations, even in English schoolbooks. The outline style of his sheets influenced artists across Europe, including Blake (a close friend since his youth with whom he shared profound spiritual yearnings), Géricault, Goya and the young Ingres, as well as German artists Runge and Overbeck. His work even inspired artists like Picasso and Matisse over a century later. Our drawing illustrates Oedipus at Colonus, the second play in Sophocles’s Oedipal trilogy. Oedipus is seated at centre, rejected by the men of the village of Colonus over his tragic, unwitting marriage to his own mother, Jocasta, who hanged herself upon realizing the truth. Having blinded himself, Oedipus sits with his two devoted daughters, Ismene and Antigone.

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