Cathedral Damien Hirst
Find out more about Damien Hirst’s Cathedral series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Published as a set of four prints in editions of 50, the Cathedral series by Damien Hirst shows some of the artist’s most iconic imagery. Titled after famous cathedrals around the world, the prints in the Cathedral series show intricate patterns inspired by religious iconography in cathedrals made up of many various butterfly wings.
The prints in the Cathedral series directly reference stained-glass windows in their complex, geometric patterns and are reminiscent of Hirst’s famous ‘Kaleidoscope paintings’ that can be located throughout his career, the first from 2001 titled It’s A Wonderful World. The Cathedral series can most obviously be compared to Hirst’s Superstition series (2006), a series of kaleidoscopic paintings that take their form as pointed arch shaped canvas, mimicking the windows in a cathedral. In their beauty and precision, obscuring the wings of butterflies into an abstract pattern, the Cathedral series synthesises Hirst’s fascination with the intersection between religion, aesthetics and science that govern humanity.
The kaleidoscopic patterns that make up the Cathedral set are instantly recognisable as Hirst’s and are some of his most complex. Unlike many of his kaleidoscopic works where the palette is restrained and tonal, this series uses contrasting colours and, in some instances, retains the wholeness of the butterfly as a motif. The complex patterns are rhythmic and eye catching, producing a spiritual and kinetic energy in their colour and form.
Why is the Cathedral series so important?
The Cathedral series is important because of its exploration of the butterfly leitmotif that has appeared throughout Hirst’s prolific career. The butterfly motif first appeared in Hirst’s work in 1991 in his In And Out Of Love (Butterfly Paintings And Ashtrays) installation that fixed the bodies of dead butterflies into monochrome gloss paint, surrounded by overflowing ashtrays. This work included live butterflies and was an exploration of “the way the real butterfly can destroy the idea (birthday-card) kind of love; the symbol exists apart from the real thing.” The I Love You series exemplifies this idealised beauty as separate from the insect itself that Hirst encapsulates in his work.
For Hirst, the butterfly is a ‘universal trigger’ that many people share in finding attractive and joyous. Recalling someone once saying to him: “Butterflies are beautiful, but it’s a shame they have disgusting hairy bodies in the middle,” Hirst in works like this chose only to display the dazzling wings of the insect. Across the series, the butterfly wing is rendered unrecognisable when viewed at a distance and as part of the larger intricate pattern. The butterfly has been used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery represents resurrection. In bringing together the fragility of the butterfly wings with the monumentality of religious art, Hirst investigates seemingly conflicting ideas that are at the core of humanity.
The Cathedral series is a visually striking series produced at a particularly prolific stage in Hirst’s career. Whether purchased as a group of four or as an individual artwork, these prints make for a highly desirable addition to any collection.
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