Imaginative ·

Metamorphosis of the Gods

Metamorphosis of the Gods


This is a copy of the original (n0. 000) and was repainted in Bistre. Lack had learned much since he 1968 about the use of bistre and he wanted to improve the color palette used for this painting. The original was destroyed after the copy was completed. Lack made adjustments to the color and refined other details in the final painting.1 Lack had several masks he collected and others he made to be used for this and later imaginative paintings. The inspiration for the painting lies in the book, The Metamorphosis of the Gods, by André Maraux.2
Lack had this to say about this work in his biography, “Man lives by myth, as Jung has stated and man’s myths center about his gods. Whether looked at from a theological metaphysical, or psychological point of view, the gods never reveal their true nature. Beyond grasp, beyond complete understanding, their essence remains an eternal mystery. They are revealed to us only by the by the masks they wear.
When, as in our time, these masks crumble and fall, mankind hangs suspended as it were, turning and twisting in a meaningless void. To quote Jung: ‘. . . a mood of world destruction and world renewal has set its mark o our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially, and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called . . . the right time . . . for a metamorphosis of the gods’, i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols.” Needless to say, ours is not the first age to experience this convulsion. The beginning of the Christian era was another such time.
My painting “Metamorphosis of the Gods” is an attempt to symbolize the profound restlessness of our era. I have used the traditional symbol of yin and yang and the sighs of the zodiac interlocked in the form of concentric circles to represent the machinery of eternal change. The large masks hovering in the background represent the masculine and feminine principle: the archetypes through which the psyche projects its images of the gods. The destruction of the old order is portrayed by the broken mask.”3


  • Richard Lack, Rochester Art Center, One Man Show, Rochester, MN, 1969
  • Lafayette Club, One Man Show, Minnetonka Beach, MN, 1974


  • Richard Lack, exhibition catalog, 1969, Rochester Art Center, One Man Show, Rochester, MN, repr. p. 2
  • Realism in Revolution, 1985, Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, TX, Edited by Richard Lack, ISBN 0-87833-463-7, Mark Steven Walker, Radical Currents of Classical Realism in Contemporary American Painting, pp. 3-9, repr. p. 8


1 Stephen Gjertson, interview with Richard Lack, c.2001.

2 Encyclopedia Britannica: In 1960 Malraux worked as editor on the series Arts of Mankind, an ambitious survey of world art that generated more than thirty large, illustrated volumes. During the 1960s, Malraux published the first volume of a trilogy on art entitled The Metamorphosis of the Gods; the second two volumes (not yet translated into English) were published shortly before he died. Malraux was born in Paris in 1901.

3 Richard Lack, Metamorphosis of the Gods, exhibition placard, Rochester Art Center, One Man Show, Rochester, MN, 1969.1