The Labours of Herakles Exhibition

An international touring exhibition associated with the Hercules Project, was based on the work of contemporary New Zealand artist Marian Maguire.  Her series of prints The Labours of Herakles (12 lithographs and 8 etchings) superimposes an ancient Greek image of Herakles onto nineteenth-century New Zealand landscapes, wittily casting the hero as a European colonist.  The work was discussed on the last day of the 2013 Hercules: a Hero for all Ages conference, with a presentation by the artist herself.  The tour visited a variety of venues in the UK and continental Europe.  The composition of the exhibition varied from place to place, as each venue displayed the prints alongside items from its own collections.

The exhibition has been presented in Leeds City Museum (23  January-15 March 2015), Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology (17 April-15 August 2015), Munich’s Antikensammlungen (16 September-13 December 2015), Würzburg’s Martin von Wagner Museum (22 January-22 May 2016)  and Belgium’s Musée Royal de Mariemont (24 September-20 November 2016).

Following the exhibition, the Royal Museums Greenwich purchased a set of this series of prints, an account of the purchase and the exhibition status of the prints appears here.

From New Zealand to Leeds...

Widely exhibited in New Zealand 2008-12, the exhibition launched in the UK in early 2015 at Leeds City Museum (23 January-15 March 2015). Here Marian’s prints were displayed alongside a selection of coins and other antiquities from the Leeds collection, putting them into the context of a 2,500-year-old tradition of reinterpretations of the hero.  In addition, The museum's New Worlds collection supplied Maori artefacts, including a pounami (jade) axe-head and examples of the distinctive tewhhatewha (fighting staff) held by Maori leaders in several of the prints.
Leeds City Council's item
The Leeds City Museum exhibition was accompanied by a series of talks by Dr Emma Stafford (University of Leeds), who discussed the prints and the images from which they take their inspiration: 'Introducing Herakles', 'Herakles the Coloniser', and 'Herakles the Politician'. The first two of these talks are available in our Resources area, under Art.
Hercules Project Art Resources

To Cambridge...

The next stop on the tour was the Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology (17 April-15 August 2015). Here the prints were set against the atmospheric backdrop of the museum's casts of classical Greek sculpture, the photo shows three of Maguire's lithographs juxtaposed with casts of the pedimental sculpture from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. These include a number featuring our hero, notably the massive Farnese Herakles and some of the metopes from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (c.460 BCE), which was the first building in ancient Greece to depict Herakles performing the canonical Twelve Labours.
Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology's item
Maguire's Herakles Goes Hunting juxtaposed with Myron's Diskobolos
In May Dr Emma Stafford delivered the talk 'Herakles the New Zealand Pioneer: an ancient Greek hero reflects on colonialism'. From May to August a series of children's workshops engaged younger viewers with the exhibition. The photograph shows Maguire's Herakles Goes Hunting (lithograph 2006), with Myron's Diskobolos (original c.460-50 BC) and other casts in the background.

To Munich...

Next the prints went to Munich's Antikensammlungen (16 September-13 December 2015), where they were juxtaposed with the museum's particularly fine collection of Greek vases, including many which feature Herakles.
Antikensammlungen's item
Herakles reclines on Olympus, looking at Maguire's etchings
In addition to the Labours of Herakles prints, there were several from Marian Maguire's earlier series The Odyssey of Captain Cook, which again combine Greek myth and references to Greek art with a colonial theme. The photo shows four of Maguire's etchings seen beyond the Andokides Painter's red-figure version of Herakles reclining on Olympos (c.530 BCE).
Just after the opening there were talks on the prints by Prof. Elizabeth Rankin (Auckland) and Marian Maguire herself.  A new edition of the catalogue The Labours of Herakles accompanies the exhibition, including an introduction by Prof. Rolf Schneider (Munich) and Prof. Elizabeth Rankin's essay 'Marian Maguire's Mythology: imag(in)ing antiquity in Aotearoa New Zealand'.
Marian Maguire's website

To Würzburg...

The prints were on show at Würzburg's Martin von Wagner Museum (22 January-May 2016).  Here they were exhibited in the Graphische Sammlung, alongside some of the Art Gallery's collection of eighteenth-century paintings as well as a selection of beautiful Greek vases from the Antikensammlung. All of the vases shown here are Attic black-figure amphoras, from the sixth century BCE, featuring Herakles performing one or another of his famous Labours.
Martin von Wagner Museum's item
At the opening, there were talks by Dr Jochen Griesbach (Director of the Antikensammlung) on 'Herakles and the ancient roots of western values', by Dr Eckhard Leuschner (from the University of Würzburg's Institut für Kunstgeschichte) on 'Transcultural Hercules: the art-historical perspective', and by Dr Emma Stafford on the prints themselves.
Hercules Project Art Resources
In the foreground of the photo, Herakles wrestles the Nemean Lion on an Attic black-figure amphora by the Towry Whyte Painter, c.575-25 BCE. Once again, in addition to the Labours of Herakles prints, there were several from Maguire's earlier series The Odyssey of Captain Cook. For an interview with Emma Stafford about Marian Maguire's work - and a vase by the Berlin Painter - see Manchester Museum's Thematic Collecting blog (April 2015) for a print summary of the interview and this page for the video interviews.
Manchester Museum's Thematic Collecting blog

And to Mariemont...

The New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium admires a print
Dr Annie Verbanck (curator of antiquities) showed His Excellence Gregory Andrews, New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium (far right), around the exhibition. The tour concluded at the Musée Royal de Mariemont in southwest Belgium (24 September-20 November 2016).  Héraclès chez les Maoris displayed the prints in the museum’s Mediterranean World rooms, alongside the Greek sculpture and vases of the permanent collection. In October Emma Stafford attended a private viewing of the exhibition for the New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium, who was intrigued to find his own country featuring amidst the museum’s displays of other cultures.
Juxtaposition of Maguire's litographs and a Greek bronze
There were some nice juxtapositions throughout the exhibition, making thematic and visual links between the ancient and modern artworks. Here Herakles, mounted on a horse in 'Herakles surprised by Maoris who were driven off with Heavy Losses', is seen behind a bronze statuette of a horse from classical Greece.
Herakles fighting the Amazons: Attic black-figure amphora, c.520 BCE
The museum’s collection includes a fine late archaic Greek vase depicting the same sort of image of Herakles as the prints.

And finally back to New Zealand...

The prints have now returned to New Zealand, where Marian Maguire’s work can be seen at PG Gallery 192 in Christchurch and Bowen Galleries in Wellington. The works exhibited in our exhibition can be viewed online through Marian Maguire's own website and purchased through the galleries noted above. However, it is possible to see the prints from our exhibition again in the UK, since the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich has recently purchased complete sets of both the Labours of Herakles and The Odyssey of Captain Cook series.
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