Michael Ayrton – Detemer, 1975, Etching
Michael Ayrton was an English artist and writer, renowned as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designer, and also as a critic, broadcaster and novelist. His varied output of sculptures, illustrations, poems and stories reveals an obsession with flight, myths, mirrors and mazes.
He was also a stage and costume designer, working with John Minton on the 1942 John Gielgud production of Macbeth at the age of nineteen, and a book designer and illustrator for Wyndham Lewis’s The Human Age trilogy. He also collaborated with Constant Lambert and William Golding.
Ayrton was born Michael Ayrton Gould, son of the writer Gerald Gould and the Labour politician Barbara Ayrton, and took his mother’s maiden name professionally. His maternal grandmother was the electrical engineer and inventor, Hertha Marks Ayrton. In his teens during the 1930s he studied art at Heatherley School of Fine Art and St John’s Wood Art School, then in Paris under Eugène Berman, where he shared a studio with John Minton. He travelled to Spain and attempted to enlist on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, but was rejected for being under-age.
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. 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.
Ayrton printed this edition but signed before singing it. It was sold via Goldmark Gallery, Rutland.
Etching, a method of making prints from a metal plate, usually copper, into which the design has been incised by acid. The copperplate is first coated with an acid-resistant substance, called the etching ground, through which the design is drawn with a sharp tool. The ground is usually a compound of beeswax, bitumen, and resin. The plate is then exposed to nitric acid or dutch mordant, which eats away those areas of the plate unprotected by the ground, forming a pattern of recessed lines. These lines hold the ink, and, when the plate is applied to moist paper, the design transfers to the paper, making a finished print.Return to gallery