Tithonus: A White-Haired Shadow Roaming like a Dream

Mary Smith, Artist

This is one of the watercolours in our collection. It was made in Wellington, Wellington Region, New Zealand in 1923.
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Object Detail

Image: 253 x 253mm
Support: 365 x 308mm
Original Matt: 375 x 313mm
Paper mat: 453 x 378mm
Matt (framed): 457 x 558mm
Frame: 611 x 510 x 25
watercolour on paper
[paint?] on paper
Watercolour painting of an elderly man in white. The figure holds a stick in one hand and gestures towards the ground with the other. He stands in a barren landscape with two trees, one tall and strong, the other withered.

The painting is based on a poem titled Tithonus by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1859). Based on Greek mythology, the poem is about Tithonus, a moral who fell in love with Eos (Aurora). Eos asks Zeus to grant Tithonus eternal life, which he does. But Eos forgot to ask for eternal youth, and as a result Tithonus grows ever older and more frail, but cannot die.

The title of the work is adapted from a line in the first verse of the poem, which reads:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of Lilian Smith.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
19 Aug 1983



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