The sleeping brain is far from restful. It is a hive of activity and has long been associated with creativity in a special way. The ancient Roman poet Ovid called Morpheus, the begetter of dreams, a skillful artist because he could assume any form. In the Renaissance, this ancient understanding of the connection between sleep and pictorial invention was revived, and sleep was exalted as a privileged state of creativity. But sleep also has a darker side, for the dreaming brain can produce nightmares. The sleeping body also becomes especially vulnerable and is thus shadowed by sleep’s twin brother, death. In this lecture, Matthew Hargraves will use the Morgan’s collections to explore the artistic responses to the enigma of sleep from the Renaissance to Surrealism.
Matthew Hargraves, Thaw Senior Fellow at the Morgan Library and Museum