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Charles Howard

The Medusa

Although he spent most of his artistic career in England, Charles Houghton Howard came from a prominent Bay Area family of artists and architects and is often recognized as one of the foremost Surrealists in California. Howard was always somewhat resistant to the Surrealist label, but to characterize works like The Medusa as anything but is difficult, given the palpable influence of Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, and, above all, the psychoanalytic writings of Sigmund Freud.

Like other artists of this period, Howard looked to mythology to address eternal truths; here, he is concerned with the danger of the female sex. The Surrealists were fascinated by this concept and represented it frequently through various forms, including Medusa and the praying mantis—both of which Howard evokes here.

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