The Defender

  • Seymour Lipton, The Defender, 1962, nickel silver on Monel metal, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1976.52

Exhibition Label
The Defender reflects Lipton’s commitment to finding optimism in the face of life’s challenges. The idea for Defender came from a 1949 book by Joseph Campbell titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces that shaped Lipton’s thoughts about the nature of mankind. The hero, he said, was “the force in man of courage, of the effort to not succumb to the adversaries in life but to struggle and fight them.” He believed that everyone is potentially heroic. “Each human being,” he said, “is struggling in some way to encompass and transcend his own limitations.”

Modern Masters: Midcentury Abstraction from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2008
Luce Center Label

The Defender is part of Seymour Lipton's series The Hero with Many Faces. The sculptor was inspired by Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a book published in 1949 that traces the stories of heroes in classical mythology. Lipton portrayed The Defender in profile to evoke the ancient sculptures of winged monsters that symbolically defended the walls of Mesopotamian palaces. These towering creatures, called lamassu, formed an intimidating "escort" for those who entered the city's gates.

Luce Object Quote
"Each and 'everyman' is a 'hero' seeking some fulfillment." Seymour Lipton
The Defender
Not on view
79 3/4 x 38 7/8 x 32 1/8 in. (202.5 x 98.8 x 81.6 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase

Mediums Description
nickel silver on Monel metal
  • Abstract
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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