Born: Benicia, California 1930
Died: Benicia, California 1992
ceramic/glazed ware 2 x 10 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (5.0 x 27.4 x 29.2 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the General Services Administration
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 51A
Luce Center Label
Robert Arneson created this piece as a model for a larger sculpture commissioned by the General Services Administration. In Greek mythology, Icarus attempted to flee the island of Crete wearing wings made from wax. Although he had been warned not to fly too close to the sun, Icarus soared high into the sky. The heat of the sun melted the wax, and he fell to his death. The title of the completed work, Ikaros, First Flight, reveals Arneson’s dark sense of humor, since Icarus’s first flight was his only flight. Both this piece and the final sculpture, which is approximately eighteen feet in diameter and one foot high, may depict Icarus’s wings as they melt, the ripple of waves immediately after he fell into the sea, or perhaps even a puddle of Icarus himself. Ikaros, First Flight was installed in the lobby of the Federal Building in Hawthorne, California, in 1980.