Sean Scully RA, Doric Persephone

Doric Persephone, 2012

Sean Scully RA (b. 1945)

RA Collection: Art

Doric Persephone belongs to Scully’s ‘Doric’ series of paintings, begun in 2008, which comprises over 100 works. An exhibition of paintings from the series, which Scully described as ‘an homage to what Greece has accomplished and to what we owe to her’, was first held in Athens in 2012. Like many paintings in the series Doric Persephone incorporates the name of a mythological figure- Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Kora, is queen of the underworld.

Scully discussed the Hellenic influence behind the series in a short text in 2012:

'The inspiration for Doric was the architectural form that accompanied the birth of democracy. Athens being the cradle of democracy, and all that followed in the West, was what I wanted to pay homage to. I wanted to express order and humanism … They [the Doric paintings] are all triptychs, and based more or less on the classical proportions of two to three. Like the floor plan of a temple. Then they are divided by horizontals and verticals arranged in groups of two or three. So the theme of classical proportion, being two by three, runs through every aspect of these paintings.'

Scully has often photographed the columns of Greek temples, and he has described the column as ‘a metaphor for man’s support of civilization’. The column also appears to have featured in the composition of the Doric paintings, which were all painted on three vertical aluminium panels which were then brought together (forming a triptych). Despite their Mediterranean inspiration the paintings were made in Scully’s studio in Mooseurach, Germany. The artist has spoken of how he painted the pictures with ‘a view of the Alps in front of me’, with a specific routine governed by the availability of natural light:

'I would always start in the afternoon. I would never have any lights on and it was next to a big window, so I had magnificent side light. That’s where I would make the Doric paintings, and I would paint them into the evening when I could hardly see what I was doing. I like that clarity.'

Throughout the series Scully favoured a restricted palette of black, grey, beige and brown, which surely related to the low levels of light in which he was painting. In this instance, the muted palette also reflects the myth of Persephone, abducted by the god of the underworld, and compelled to remain there in darkness for six months each year.

Object details

Doric Persephone
Sean Scully RA (b. 1945)
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on linen

711 mm x 965 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Sean Scully RA accepted 5 March 2013
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