The Swan's Dream of Leda Audio Guide

David Hare

American, 1917–1992

The Swan's Dream of Leda

Bronze with stone base
53 3/4 × 33 1/2 × 9 3/4 inches

Photography not permitted
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of the artist, 1963

Location: Bass Concert Hall Lobby, Fourth Floor
GPS: 30.285849,-97.731528
Audio file

Valerie Fletcher: David Hare was born and raised in New York City and he did not originally intend to become a sculptor. He did not indeed originally intend to become an artist at all. As an undergraduate, he studied Chemistry and Biology. It was only afterwards that he became interested in photography. Like many other artists of his generation, he became interested in surrealism, a movement in art and literature that emphasized the importance of imagination and intuition in art and writing. He also believed in the importance of Freudian free association.

Hare’s sculpture, The Swan’s Dream of Leda from 1962, refers to a classical Greek myth in which the patriarchal lead god, Zeus desired a human woman, a beautiful female. He, therefore, came to her in the form of a swan. Often this subject was treated through the history of Renaissance and post-Renaissance art as an excellent excuse for portraying a beautiful, usually nude female. However, in this case, Hare did not depict that so much as the swan dreaming of Leda, not the actual encounter.

In this sculpture, you have basically abstract forms, linear, fluttering about, some of them with very thin, delicate elements in them as if they are perhaps the wings, the feathers. This then is an evocation of an event, not a depiction of it. It’s more suggestive of the fantasy of dreaming about a sexual encounter, not the encounter itself.