Metamorphoses and the Art of Love

27 June - 5 July 2012

James Hyman is proud to present a specially curated exhibition Metamorphoses and the Art of Love, inspired by the poetry of Ovid. The exhibition takes as its starting point Ovid's celebrated Metamorphoses with its compendium of Greek and Roman myths concerning transformation, and his Ars Armatoria (Art of Love), a three-part instructional guide to love and seduction.

Ovid's Metamorphoses addresses the theme of transformation, most often of human beings into other natural forms. The exhibition includes key works that explore this theme. A centre piece is provided by one of Ivon Hitchens greatest and largest paintings, The Fountain of Acis. Inspired by the nymph Acis's transformation into a stream, it includes not only a Greek temple but also a voluptuous depiction of beloved Galatea side the water. Equally, Edouard Baldus's views of the Louvre in Paris are filled with allegories of power, art and the resurgence of Classical values in the new French Empire.

Altogether more controversial was Ovid's Ars Armatoria, which at a time of a new morality, including the promotion of monogamy by Emperor Augustus, may have seemed too liberal in its treatment of adultery, and contributed to Ovid being exiled from Rome. The three books of Ars Armatoria address first, how to find women; second, how to seduce them; and finally, how to prevent others from stealing them. Ovid also addresses what a woman should do to keep a man. The tone, however, is parodic, witty and playful. Humour is often close at hand as Ovid advises 'not forgetting her birthday', 'letting her miss you - but not for long' and 'not asking about her age' and instructs women on 'making up, but in private', 'being wary of false lovers' and 'trying young and older lovers'. Similarly, Clemmer's collaboration with Paco Rabbane on his series Nue pushed the boundaries of sex, fashion and the photographic arts beyond its confines with playful but erotic portraits.

The exhibition includes exceptional photographs by some of the greatest photographers in the history of the medium, from the earliest days of photography through to more recent times, among them rare vintage prints by Eugene Atget, David Bailey, Edouard Baldus, Roger Fenton, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Charles Negre, William Henry Fox Talbot and Edward Weston.

A select choice of key paintings that address the theme of the exhibition will also be included. Prominent among them are an important early Pop Art painting by Patrick Caulfield and a major canvas by Ivon Hitchens.