elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
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elisa_rolle

Michael Ayrton (February 20, 1921 – November 17, 1975)

Michael Ayrton (20 February 1921 – 17 November 1975) was an English artist and writer, known as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designer, and also as a critic, broadcaster and novelist. He was a stage and costume designer, working with John Minton on the 1942 John Gielgud production of Macbeth from age 19; and a book designer and illustrator, for Wyndham Lewis's The Human Age trilogy and William Golding. He also collaborated with Constant Lambert. His work is in several important collections including the Tate Gallery, London, National Portrait Gallery, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fry Art Gallery, Essex.

Ayrton was born Michael A. Gould in St Pancras, London, his parents being Gerald Gould and Barbara Ayrton; he took his mother's maiden name professionally. In 1952, he married Elisabeth Evelyn Walshe (1910–1991), the former wife of author Nigel Balchin. Elisabeth Ayrton was a novelist and writer on cookery. He died in 1975 at Hampstead, London.

Beginning in 1961, Michael Ayrton wrote and created many works associated with the myths of the Minotaur and Daedalus, the legendary inventor and maze builder, including bronze sculpture and the pseudo-autobiographical novel "The Maze Maker" (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967). He also wrote and illustrated "Tittivulus Or The Verbiage Collector", an account of the efforts of a minor devil to collect idle words. He was the author of several non-fiction works on fine art, including "Aspects of British Art" (Collins, 1947).

In 1977, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery organised a major retrospective exhibition of his work which subsequently went on tour. Several paintings are currently on display in the Old Bank Hotel in Oxford.


John Minton


Portrait of Wyndham Lewis


Sir William Turner Walton


The Captive Seven

His representation of St. Anthony gave expression to the extreme turmoil of Ayrton's own life, for it was at this time that Minton declared his love for Michael in a letter. Michael wrestled mightily with his own feelings about John Minton and his fear of homosexuality. Some of those feelings and fears were poured out in a letter of response to Minton written in the early spring of 1943:
I have been in love with you about four years fighting - I couldn't just put it plainly then, or try to live it physically because deep down in me is this virulent calvanist [sic] hatred or if you like fear of homosexuality which even now fills me with terror and horror when I contemplate it physically... Maybe you thought I believed as I tried to, all the things I said to give you the impression it was all a beautiful brother-like friendship as far as I was concerned. But I couldn't have it any other way... because I seem to be a sort of double pervert."
After the vehement expressions of feeling between them, and Michael's rejection of giving physical expression to those feelings, there was a permanent rupture in their formerly close relationship, Michael survived the emotional trauma, at least in part, because of the compassion and understanding of both Joan (JOAN FOA's maiden name was Walsh and her first married name was Locke, but she is best known as Joan Ayrton, the name she adopted by deed poll during the six years she lived with the artist Michael Ayrton) and his mother. His struggles against homosexual feelings come out later in some of his art, but only as a theme in a minor key.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ayrton

Further Readings:

Myth and the Creative Process: Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus, the Maze Maker by Jacob E. Nyenhuis
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Wayne State Univ Pr (March 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0814330029
ISBN-13: 978-0814330029
Amazon: Myth and the Creative Process: Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus, the Maze Maker

An original inquiry into how the artistic psyche interacts with myth; includes a catlaogue of the works of British artist Michael Ayrton.

More Artists at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Art


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Tags: art, gay classics
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