Ruin at Daphne

Wellfleet, MA
Oil on canvas
48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm)
Signed, dated on left: "E W Dickinson 1943-1953"
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Notes: Painted in Wellfleet, MA and New York, NY. Painting done between 1943, and All entries are from ED journals unless otherwise noted.

to Tibi; 13 April, 1938 from Rome: visited the Diocletian Baths. Saw in Forum the Basilica Maxentius, its standing part of 3 arches of great length and thickness. These three "caverns" are what are left of the right aisle, 312 A.D. [ED overwhelmed by the Roman Forum, "beyond his imaginings."]

1943; January 1 "Began (having painted out yesterday's Mayo's Beach house on the canvas) a 60/48 of antique peristyle, villa of 1820 & pool." Continued January 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, February 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18. December 31, journal summary for 1943, "Began 60 x 48 of Three Periods of architecture in Provence . . ."

To EHS, February 23, 1943, "I have begun a piece I have wanted to do for a long time - a good size piece 60 x 48. The piece is entirely from imagination and should be a sweet piece being most cheerful in subject, & full of incident."

1944: painted January 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, [entry of 10 January; "The circular temple at Baalbek / The Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek / The so-called arch of Trajan at Timgad."] 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, ( To Tibi, 18 January; "One of the pillars in the painting now has a staircase flung around it."), 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26 "trying to connect the stairway 60/48", 27, February 16 "(spiral)", 17, 18, 19, 25 "Trying to compose the L. side of the 60/48", 26, March 1, 2 "Brought 60/48 down to the house.", 3, 4, on 5th "I stayed up until 11:30 looking at the 5 x 4 . . .", 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 "Working on R side of 60/48, began waterfall", 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 " canvas in East room", "The pool is now confined in the foreground.", 26, 27, 28 "small correction and commenced a hexagonal tower at the L.", 29, 30, 31, April 1 "I looked at canvas and planned.", 5 "(took out villa & keep)", 6 "5th night, consecutive dream working in perspective.", 7, 8 "arches & entablatures", 12, 13, 14, 15; May 5 "I found (from 1936) some good photographs of Baalbek.", 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26 & 28 & 29 making box for 60/48; 26 December sent for 60/48 to come to NY.

1944: To Tibi, January 11;"I have a good sized 60 x 48 camvas under way - one which you will like, I think. It is a drawing only, as yet, in pink paint (in mass, not in line). In the foreground is a calm pool in which is reflected, in the order of distance from the observer: a Grecian marble urn, a Roman collonade [sic] supporting 4 broken & 4 complete arches; a large French mansion of 1800, connected by a 'bridge of sighs' with a french feudal keep. Above these reflections, of course, the reflected objects appear. There will be many more (objects); trees, rocks, sky , etc. I have no models; I have the patience and I can invent pretty well. I plan to keep it to a drawing for some time yet, & only commence to paint when I have the trellis, on which to hang the chiaroscuro, completed. I have had 48 sittings on it." 1944 To Tibi, January 18; "One of the pillars in the painting now has a staircase flung around it."

1945: January 11 "60x48 came ok. hung it up in middle room." July 2 "I began painting on 60/48", 3, 5, 6, 9 "painted 60/48 [145 sittings] plaster models" ?, 10, 11, 12, 13 "working on 60/48 using a protractor on an easel (should have last year)", 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23; October 3, samples of elipses "60x48 elipses." 4 "began rock at left on 60x48", 5, "planning - rocks to ruins.", 6, "painted ruins L." 7, 8, "composing, etc.", on 9 "talk with Pat on 60/48.", 11 "Began a still life.", 12 "painted still life", 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, November 4 "to 23rd St. [new studio] took 60/48.", 7, 9 "painted on R.", 12, 13 "tubed", 14, 15, 16, 19 "60/48 photographed.", 21, "(propylaiea") 22, 23, 26, 28 "painted until 7: Pm (8 1/2 hrs.) 2nd stairway to R.", 29, December 1, 3, 4, "181 [sittings]", 5 "183 [sittings meaning he painted both AM & PM]", 6, 7 "Thought on Amst[erdam] Av late, of plans for left side of canvas & before bed.", 8 "took out feudal silo & ruins to L; Began planning L side. carried out plan of last night - a start.", 10 "left side", 12, 13, 14, 16 "Pat & I to studio to see 60/48;", 19, 20, 29 "set-up V. P [viewpoint] to R & indicated connection on basilique.", 31 "set up basilique new. / connected arches - made bldg. sound for S.P." (station point0.

To EHS, October 15, 1945; [he has no studio yet] "At present I am working on my growing 60 by 48, which being still in the drawing state, can be as well painted by electric light. Three values of red, a pencil, a yardstick & dividers being all I need."

1945: To Tibi, October 20; "My pink piece progresses. It is to become elaborate. Then I shall snow that side of it under, if I can - but letting a good many things stick up."

To EHS, November 27, 1945; "The drawing, when completed, will be but a framework on which to hang two designs: one for close to, and one from farther off. I have never before disposed a large piece wholly on particular pre-arrangement. am glad I chose the subject I did - an architectural one, which I love, as this has made necessary a complete drawing preporation; as I could not manage the drawing I will have done, and paint it too. The color (long since decided upon) and the composition are what it is to be about, and the drawing had to be done. I thought I knew perspective - in principle - pretty well, but this experience has stiffened up what I did know by a good deal."

1945, To Tibi, December 23; [a floorplan of the ruin, to be reproduced]"The only familiar thing in the pink canvas, to you, is the pool in the foreground & this has changeded shape somewhat, & in it are all new reflections except those of the urn & the spral stairway. In the middle background now stands a basilica having three deep arches rising about 60 feet above their base, which base is approached by one larger & three smaller staircases. A small ruined temple adjoins the basilica at the left, the whole piece occupying the crest of a rocky acropolis. All the staircases etc with their light & shade are reflected in some part in the pool." [The three dark arches appear to be inspired by those of the Baths of Maxentius which he saw in Rome].

1946: January 1, 2, "Ref 'Villa Chadanne' [sic] my 2nd title for the 60/48. The 1st was 'Three Periods of architecture in Provence.'" [George Paul Chadanne was 31 when in 1892 he discovered that Hadrian was the builder of the Pantheon.] 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 19 "Constant & I to studio - he helped me carry canvas." 20 "thoughts of how to paint my 60/48.", 21 "(enlarged basilica)", 23, 24, 25, 26, 28 "(altered & corrected pool)", 30, 31, February 2, 4 "reflections quite solid", 7, 12, 14, 16, 21 "(made a break in main stairway)", 23 "Pat dreamed that she & I, to refresh ourselves, swam in the pink ruin pool, being nearby. The water was not cold.", 25. March 2, 3 "Most of painting thoughts have, for some time, been applied to the 60/48", 4 "capital", 6, 7, 11 "worked on capital", 13, 14, 16 "a new foreground", 18, 20, 21, 23, 27 drawing of a goose "for 60/48", April 1, 3, 4 "adjusted main stairway, etc.", 6, 8, 9 "(pillar, spiral)", 10, 11, 13, 15, 16 "(another octagon)", 17, 18, 19 "working now on octagonal urn unit", 20, 22 "octagonal assembly [?]", 23, 24 "Octagon all wrong", 25 "Got Lawson's 'Perspective' from Cooper [Union]", 6 "drew", 27 "temple continuation at R. & took out irregular octagon & laid in new regular one on urn; back to the cube.", 29, May 1, 2, 3, 4 "League students in studio", 5 "got 60/48 & brought it home.", June 25 60/48 came, [to Welfleet], unpacked July 25; 26 "made a frame 60x48 from my old 'Interior' [1916] 48 x 84 frame." 27 "finished some details on 60/48 (lowered base of pillar etc.), 29 "To Provincetown with 60/48 in Shelly's truck to Art Ass'n;", August 4 "opening of Art Assn show. My 60/48 in central position."September 4 "packed 60/48 & frame", December 28 "60/48 came from Wellfleet". [held up because of truckers strike].

1946: To Tibi, January 4;"My large piece is being pushed, and is becoming firmer; it is almost entirely changed - out with the old; in with the new."

1946: To Tibi, February 22;"I had made a mistake (20) and had to lift a hundred cubic feet of water up about four feet. That takes it out of a man 54."

1947: January 5 "uncrated frame for 60/48.", February 7 "took 60/48 to studio.", March 4 "got 48/60 from ??

1947: July 8, fragment to Pat:"I shall not work long on the 60/48 but these days - after fourteen months layiing-off it - I am making good progress. There now being a third level of water in the near foregrounnd - with I do not know many more to come!

to FD at Hessian Hills, 1947:"the urn no longer rises from the water-level ( a known established poinnt now, thank heaven), but from a pit, the walls of which keep out the water of the main pool. Varied - and widely varied, explained levels in close conjunction are very captivating to me." [drawings].

to FD at Hessian Hills: 'The urn is becoming handsome and solid. Yesterday, in four hours, I constructed a tapering, concave, octagonial [sic] base, on which I placed the shaddow [sic] of the urn. Well, I had a slow time figuring it out, but following 'leads', I did it - I think correctly. You know the marble urn which I once gave you: I shall place a (of course, large) marble above on L corner ..." fragment.

To FD August 2, 1947 at Hessian Hills:"I shall stop work on the 60/48 the middle of this week. I have revived it, and pushed it - not furthered it much, but I Have cleaned up some places and developed some things. This puts me in a better position on it."

to FD at Hessian Hills, 1947:"My raised, foreground pool is very nice - solid & handsome; and, on a perfect sheet of 'glass,' the left-hand, largest arch is reflected in exactly the right place - it would, of course, not show but for the new higher pool. Next to it are the oher 2 arches reflected in a different level. I made mistakes doing it, but I succeeded." [after the fire]

1947 to FD at Hessian Hills. on self as a colorist.More on Daphne and "reality.""I shall enjoy my birds sailing around.""The nude . . . will sit in absorbed repose, at the left, 113n1/2 inch high, but a little shorter as she will be near enough elow the eye--level to be foreshortened to the great trochanter [underlined] (lower pelvic knob). I have marked the height of the 4 figures at widely different distances away * a man of my height where the nude is to be would be 28" in height. The arches rise 66 ft from the pavement. The near pool, picks up parts of the left and middle arches under which would have disappeared below the frame. That on the right is seen, in part, in the main pool. Because I am unable to plan the substance so as to satisfy a compositional air, I realize the insignificance and 'gropingness' of all that I am putting down., I have always considered that the main isues were yet to come; I only hope that they do; the design and the color - I couldn't put one in front of the other."

to FD at Hessian Hills, 1947: . . . of the urn-rim - one of the doves which is pecking nder its winf. This dove will be reflected in the pool. On top of the dovethere will be a living dove - doing the same thing - or arrested in so-doing by realizing that his perch is also a dove, peering down at it.l" a nice touch which he will enjoy."Such will make up for a nude whose mood is to be not peaceful.. I think I can design this piece including 'living elements' better - for all their drag - better than I could were design the whole question. Things I recall you saying influence me. The new pool will do well when I have built it in th=e ensemble. I certainly feel in a position to make a strike at executing anything I want to. A few birds will be sailing abut - sailing only - as, so, their movement, a line, be felt. It will be very nice to have birds in the air - solid birds. I do not think I can work in any more falling rocks this time, and the birds will be what is needed. I wish that the piece were 65/51, but it would do no good, probably." 1947: October 23;"I shall have a Model I know . . . I now know what size to have this figure (in the foreground) to the end that, were she to stand up and walk back and up the temple steps she would be the size she should be -"

Matta.", April 7 address & phone of model Sylvia Koontz, 17 "Elsa took 18 photoraphs 60/48 & others.", May 16, package going to Wellfleet includes "arches for 60/48" [i.e. templates], 22 "got 60/48", 23 "boxed 60/48", 24 sent Railway Express to Wellfleet, 31 arrived Wellfleet; painted July 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 "a new level of water in foreground.", 8, 9 "L arch in higher pool, & plans.", 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 "eve. studio looking at work. (base of urn). Planned size of people: foreground L seated nude to be 13", foreshortened measured altitude. Put 2 figs in (on steps by pillar, & on top of steps.) Arches are 66 ft. from pavement to keystones.", 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, August 1, 2, 9 "This summer I will have had about 35 sittings on the 60/48 - the 3rd time such a number. But winter of 1945-6 I had 100.", September 17 "[to] Elsa's got plates [negatives of 60/48].", 18 "[to] Fred's he printed me 16 prints. gratis." November 5, 6.

1948: January 2"I back & to 3d street with 60/48.", 17 "Sylvia Koontz for figure 60/48", 18 "painted Sylvia K.", 19, 21, March 15 got book "Birds in Flight", 17 "painted marble doves (2)", 24 "BACK ON THE 60-48.", "painted - arranging rather the pentagonal entablature for the round temple at L.", 25 "painted . . . round temple.", 26 "round temple", 27 "round temple entablature.", 29, 30, April 1 "painted on entablature.", 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 Pat to studio, 12 "60/48 frame sent to Wellfleet", 13, 15, 16, 19, 20 "looking at canvas", 21 "painted L side of acropolis . . ., 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 30, May 2 "took 60/48 to appt.[sic]", 6, 13, 15 " re-did (correctly) shaddow [sic] & moved stone. Understood physics of stones movement & size. Raptus.", 20, 22, 23, 27, "packed 60/48.", 28 "60-48 sent to Wellfleet.", June 1 "60/48 & frame came, in studio.", July 9 "a better urn- base.", 13, 14 "Drew briefly on 60/48.", 25, 26, "painted . . . lower edge", August 1, 16, 17 "added 1 ft. to each horizon edge.", 20 "Drew on foreground", 21 "drew foreground . . . masonry gone - rocks commence. pools the same.", 23 "moved planes (toward L VP) to a new pt 9 1/4" L of old. good change.", 24, 27, 29, 30 "drew bird [?] am.", 31, September 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, 13 "boxed the 60/48", 21, 60/48 arrives New York, 22, it unpacked, 29 "painted . . . near foreground puddles.", 30, October 1 "decided to make the foreground rocks black,", 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 "re-cast shaddow [sic] of urn on new base.", 29, 31, November 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 "to lower 4th Av for data for 60/48", 9, 10, 18 "Began a large Calif. White Oak at L.", 23 "on trees.", 24, 28 "took the ruins to . . . on 23rd St.", 29 took it to 126 E. 23rd St.", December 2, 3, 15.

1948: To Tibi, January 10; " I shall begin the first figure in the ruins piece. It is to be a seated nude facing, I think, to the left. I have a very beautiful model for this figure." (In 1959 he saw her again and notes that she was once sitting where the broken spiral pillar at the lower left of the 60/48 stands.)"

1948: To Tibi, April 10; drawing of a round temple; "This, less tipped, is the sort of building I am putting in, a round temple much ruined. What a job! There is a building near Damascus like it which I shall visit sometime."

1948: To Tibi, March 25; "I am again on the large pink piece and am happy to be." April 4; "I am so happy to be working on the 60/48 again! . . . it is still only a drawing. But you know I plan a grand composition out of it and I must expect it to take time.""April 10;"A fine ruined building has appeared on the left center; nothing has been taken out - just more added, and two marble birds are perched on the rim of the urn, one drinking & the other preening his feathers. Many birds will appear in flgiht.

1948: To Tibi, April 27;"The heretofore undecided upon left side of my piece now has some thing indicated. (I have had things here before, a Roman brick wall - a town, streets etc - but they did not last)."

1948: To Tibi, August 29; [I am] putting a flock of flying pigeons in the left side of my pink composition."

1948: To Tibi, October 3;"The foreground is now occupied by a descending stairway (at the left side) and in the center by a more irregular platform of natural, irregular (to be) black rocks on which four puddles of water have collected in reflection at the varying levels."

1948: December 4; "I am . . . re-dong the left hand side; I had to make room there for other disposings."

1949: January 4 "worked on main arch briefly", February 6, 9, May 29 Elaine de Kooning at studio about "Art News" Sept. article, 3 photographs taken and 2 details, 30 brought 60/48 to apartment by subway, August 17 "60/48 came from Nantucket", September 13 "boxed 60/48", 16 "60/48 arrived NY", October 20 "The frame 60 x 48 from Esther came today. Gold, handsome, heavy! Now I have proper frame for my piece." December 24 "rigged light for 60/48 [apartment] hall now in its big (EHS) frame.".

1950: June 4, it taken to Waddells to store for the summer. September 21 "To Riverdale for 60/48",

1951: January 1, "commenced 60/48, 1943 since when I have worked on it 350 sittings.", 3 "Helen gave me a fine 30/60/90 triangle.", 4 "painted 60/48 (after 2 years.)", 8, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, February 3, 6, 7, 14, 16, 19,, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, April 4, November 14, 15, 19 "3 pillars L-R purple, green, orange.", 20, 26, 30 "it at 380th sitting.", December 5, 6, 11, 12, 13.

1951: To Tibi & EHD; "I am beginning the painting, the color of the large piece;"

1952: February 11 "set up 60/48 work again", 13 "Happy to be on 60/48 again; feel resourcefull.", 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 25, 27, 28, March 1,3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19,20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, March summary "34 sittings on the piece since re working on it on Feb. 13th", April 1, 2, 3 "painted until 5; AM", 5 "(I have had 40 sittings on the 60/48 since I brought it from Columbus Circle." "Get NY Times of this date for photograph of a pigeon", 7 "60/48 picked up by Hahn Bros for Mus. Mod. Art.", 15, "Saw my exhibition carefully before hours [MOMA]. DM [Dorothy Miller] told me a trustee offers to buy the 60/48 'as is'. Vehement refusal at any figure;", April summary "Left off work on 60/48 at 424th sitting, on April 5th." May 5, MOMA would like to have the 60/48, "i.e. the 'option', sans [without] dollar.", September 18 "The 60-48 came from the Museum , ok hung it over the bed. Planning." November 3 "painted, once more on 60/48", 18 "Drawing on 60/48.", 19 "painted (drew) 60/48 . . . helix over pillar.", 20, 21 "Get rid of the tree at L; delay comittment to the helix over pillar.", 26, month summary "Resumed 60/48 3rd @ #425 sittings" "Completion of my work on the 60/48; sittings 430 26th.", December 1, 2 "painted l. stairs.", 3, 4, 5 painted & "I want the 60/48 to be worthy of its purpose - decided upon in '13 & commenced in '43.", 10, 11 "6 hrs. of futile constructing. Took it out after finished the Dudley [portrait].", 12, 15, 17, 18, "An oddity (of which I have often thought): It is not a moment's scene in nature [the 60/48], but one limited in its execution by a painter-draughtsman by the time occupied in doing it - with the (always) morning sun in motion. This, then, could account for the varying steepness of angles cast by the sun on surfaces below intercepting surfaces. Standing before the nature, for example, the left end of the top of the urn and its shaddow [sic] on the retaining wall was done at ten of a morning while the displaced block of the left near stairway and its shaddow [sic] was done at eleven thirty. It is therefore, not a scene rendered as of a moment's appearance, but of a scene during its morning appearance. I make no claim that the above would have obtained. It is a jolly wriggling from under error - ".

1952: ED considered the 60/48 "unfinished" but not abandoned," after 429 sittings.

to FD , 23 March [?] 1952: s[e [ropbaly on way to Florida with Edie]"The white temple looks possiblle, but no good in the piece, so tomorrow I shall put it in on a larger plane of usefulness I can keep it, as I'd like to do, white, but the key is too high & I shall lower it, & 'twill be as white as before & Incidental to its environs, I guess."

from Paris, 1952;"I am very anxious to return to the 60/48 & I think I'll do better with it for my trip. I hope so ! I feel that the commitment to its drawing will not impede me as I have often feared it would." [drew at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.]

1953: January 1 "The Daphne is 10 years old today.", 13, 14, 15 "The 60/48 @ 10 yrs & 15 days is 447 execution sittings along, i.e. 45 per year. Present alt. of arch-top from the ocean plane is 200 ft. A flight of steps @ L, of 88 of them lead from plane of the station-point to the floor of the valley which approaches the sea.", " from top of arch to plane of canted section of L stairs is 130 ft. with 40' (steps) from plane of S.P. [station point]", May 27 "Gregory & I took 60/48 to Jack Tworkov's." November 8 "Drove to Battery & picked up the 60/48 at Tworkovs." 23 Daphne was 6 ks SW from Antioch av. alt. 300 m. [meters] on a 2000 m square plateau. The shrine and gardens at Daphne in Syria were renowned as the "Paradise of Daphne." It is entirely demolished and the site lies in Turkey.

1953: To Tibi, January 15; "I have taken out that far left section of the 60x48 (where something had been drawn in more because the space was 'left over' than that I had a good idea in mind) and whats going in now is very different, and I enjoy it because there is a reason for puttit in; it is laborious, but, when interested my staying-power is strong. There is, of course, another level of water in a pool, and a zig-zagging flight of steps leading one down about 75 feet - the will make the altitude from the top of the temle down to the new level about 150 feet, and this, up & down from where one is standing (the 'station point'), very near at hand. The opposite of what one sees in a precise scene where its all perfectly flat from where on stands to the horizon without a break. The earth under one section of the stairways has sunk so the flight is canted over to one side in quite a human matter."

letter fragment: "many not small passages in this piece remained for from 2 to 5 months; their removal left traces of them, some of which are visiblle now.. The column moved about, buildings appeared and disappeared, a french villa of 1820 where the arches presently stand being present in its reflection in the pool for some time after its removal. During most of its execution years, the piece was done entirely with 2 yard sticks, a pencil, & a pair of dividers, and several tubed values of French earth red oil paint."

1954: March 1 "gale blew expressman over dropping 60/48. cut a hole 3/4" in lower R cor[ner].", [it being picked up for National Institute of Arts and Letters show], April 22 "Inst. will have the 60/48 relined.", May 27 "wrote Bob Hale [of Metropolitan] ref Temple Ruin." later entry "Met. Mus. purchased it @ 3000."], June 9 "To Institute @ 155" St. where looked carefully at back front on all edges 60/48. New linen backing & stretcher (heavy); heavy varnish. Robt. Hale called ref 60/48 to Met. Mus. for Monday. He will store it this summer whether the Museum buys it or not (@ $3000=).", 10 "Decided to name the 60/48 'Ruin at Daphne.' . . . Cons & I PM to Inst. signed 60/48 & labeled it."June 14 "Wonder if Met. Mus. Trustees took Ruin at Daphne.", 18 "Hale foned fr NYC . . . The Met'n Mus. Trustees voted to buy the 'Daphne' when Edwd. J. Gallagher Jr. of Baltimore asked to give it at price asked, $3000=." September 9, a photo in journal of swan with outreached wings, marked "Ref 60/48".

1954: To Tibi;"I have not worked on the 60/48 of the ruin, etc since November 1952. A piece of the size and complexity is not re-attackable after so long a lapse,when it is already then 10 years old. Though I am disappointed in finding myself unable to carry out the piece of so much aspiring as I wanted to, I am adjusted to leaving it - as , indeed, in one measure or another, all my large pieces have been since the An Anniversary of 1921-22. . . .I am to receive the price I asked;. . . The incompleteness of the piece to my mind is why I asked only three.. . . I could not finish it; it has a good home, good indeed!"

1954: June 9 At Institute "looked carefully at back front on all edges 60/48. New linen backing & stretcher (heavy); heavy varnish." June 10 "Decided to name the 60/48 "Ruin at Daphne" [sic] (journal). Cons and I PM to Inst. signed 60/48 & labeled it.

1955: March 2, "Rec'd (& sent) forms from Met. Mus. of Art indicating that the Daphne is now owned by the Museum." [copyright ?], 7 "Met. Mus. talk Hale. 60/48 new lable [sic], Museum property. Refused permission to photo it in color for Praeger Book.", 20 "I saw a large projection in color of the Daphne tonight - fair - & big ! I always wanted it bigger.", 26 "Met. Mus. 60/48 survey, & finish [?] work."

1956: January 10 "Shall have a 60/48 photo of the Daphne in about a week ($19=)", 11 "sent ck $19 to Mus. Mod. Art for 60/48 photograph.", 19 "got 60/48 photo good", February 2 "got 60/48 photograph by taxi to appt [sic]." FD letter to HDB September 3, 1978: she gave close friend Mary Aiken, (Mrs. Conrad) the full-size photograph of the Daphne. This also a "thank-you" for Conrad's loan of his candlestick as model for the twisting pillar.

1957: October 4 "painted blocked out most of 44/34 [South Wellfleet Inn] as I did with the 60/48 on 14th St."

1959: In Baalbek, "The culmination of wishing in 1944-48." (journal).

1964: He recalls the beautiful "Sylvia Koontz who I painted in the 60-48 & soon took out. Too bad".

1965: September 27, "A talk with Bob Hale [of Met]. If I let him know ahead he'll arrange to let me make a spot on the 60/48 before it goes to the Whitney Sunday night, a dedication on the piece, I in 1943 decided to mark it so to Burgess but feeling as time went along that I'd do a 'better' piece I didn't do it. I wish it so (obliquely) marked now, while there's time."

The fountain and the birds are adapted from a similiar miniature marble fountain and birds, owned by ED. It in turn derives from a Roman mosaic now in the Capitoline Musem, Rome. ED was very fond of this piece, for originally he purchased it as a present for FD. The motif is still popular in Rome where one can buy it still, now in plastic.

FD note; Conrad Aiken the poet, ED a spiraled silver candlestick of his grandmother's as a model for the spiraled column.

ED notes made in 1965 Whitney catalogue: Once several girls were seen dancing on stones in the pool and reflected, of course. Once a great stone sils stood in the place of the round temple. Once a plank at the shaddow [sic] bridged a chasm over a wall above which rose a rock which climbed an Italian village.""The goose was the last thing put in it," doing 40 mph on the turn."The letters 'BD' once stood in the sky over first arch. This was in memory of my brother but considering the piece unworthy the letters disappeared." FD wrote the initials were scraped off in 1954.

ED note: On the reverse of a photograph of the Daphne he wrote that the left side, that with the stairs and doves, was the "Best Entrance" to the painting.

HDB note: ED liked to make up stories about some of his paintings. For "Ruin at Daphne" he said that it was an imaginary Roman ruin in Syria, built 40 AD, in a style which was a concoction of corrupted Corinthian, Doric and Ionic forms. He alleged the stone silo in the upper left had been built in 1600, but was replaced by a half-ruined temple. It leans slightly because it was built on soft earth. In 1900 the ruin was bought up by a well-to-do Frenchman who landscaped it and built a pool.

FD note: ED loved to paint objects in reflection and did so all he could in the "Daphne." There are imaginary reflections of imaginary structures, stairs, pillars, vaults of imaginary ruins at an imagined Daphne. In a foreground pool there are also reflected structures which are not above it. Sometimes there remain reflections of structions that have been painted out.

FD note: The swirl rising above the central pillar was to be smoke, in form a helix. ED loved both smoke and the helix.

FD note: "Brun rouge is the color that was used for painting Ruin at Daphne. Edwin liked this color and bought a considerable number of tubes with him when he returned from painting in France om 1938. The horse in the Daphne is from the frieze of the Parthenon."

FD note: ED told only a few people what was, for him, the "true" name of the "Ruin at Daphne." His private title was "Two Sisters in Syria." One sister was the whole design; the other the elaboration.


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Exhibition History

1952 MoMA: 15 Americans, as "Unfinished Composition"
1954 American Academy & National Institute: as "Study for a Composition"
1959 Boston University Art Gallery: Edwin Dickinson, Retrospective Exhibition
1961 James Graham & Sons: Edwin Dickinson, Retrospective
1963 Brandeis University: Paintings by Edwin Dickinson
1965 Whitney: Edwin Dickinson. Major retrospective
196869 Venice Biennial: The Figurative Tradition in Recent American Art: Edwin Dickinson
1979 American Academy & National Institute: Memorial Exhibition: Edwin Dickinson, Charles Eames, Eugene Francis Savage, Edward Durell Stone, Stow Wengenroth
1982b NAD: Art Students League Benefit Sale

Additional Images

early detail