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Daedalus and Icarus: Two Perspectives

Grades K–8

Table of Contents

Featured Work
Reading Activity
Additional Activities by Grade Level
Additional Recommended Online Resources
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

Featured Work

Richard Hunt
(American, born 1935)
Icarus, 1956
78 x 38 x 22 1/2 inches (198.1 x 96.5 x 57.2 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1959 
Background Information for Educators


  • Learn about the ancient Greek story of Daedalus and Icarus
  • See how the story is depicted differently in two works of art
  • Learn about the sculpture Icarus by Richard Hunt
  • Use Icarus to creatively draw or write what might have occurred before or after the moment depicted by the sculpture


  • Daedalus and Icarus: Two Perspectives presentation
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Drawing materials such as crayons or markers
  • Collected found sculpture materials such as pieces of cardboard or wood
  • Materials such as glue or bendable wire to connect the materials (for optional activity)

Reading Activity

The Story of Icarus (Brief Synopsis)

Daedalus, a creative inventor, was featured in an ancient Greek story called a myth. In the story, King Minos of the island of Crete asked Daedalus to design and build a structure that would both hide and imprison the half-bull, half-human Minotaur. Daedalus built a structure called the Labyrinth, a maze so complicated that the creature would never escape. Afterwards, Daedalus fell from King Minos’s favor. Desperate to escape the island of Crete and the wrath of the king, he built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his young son, Icarus. Although Daedalus warned his son to stay far from the sun, Icarus’s youthful excitement during his first flight made him forget.  The sun melted the wax, releasing the feathers and causing Icarus to plunge to his death in the Aegean Sea. Overcome by grief, Daedalus found his son’s body and buried it an area that he called Icaria, in Icarus’s honor.

Recommended Readings of Icarus for Students

For Grades K–8

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
By Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire 

Greek Myths for Young Children
By Heather Amery; illustrated by Linda Edwards

By Dan Mishkin; illustrated by Rick Hoberg 

For High School Students 

Excerpt about Daedalus and Icarus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses 


After reading the myth, view slide #1 in the Daedalus and Icarus: Two Perspectives presentation with your students and ask:

  • Where are Icarus’s legs? Wings? Face? Torso?
  • What other parts of the body can you identify?
  • What do you think the base of the sculpture represents?
  • What moment in the story is depicted?
  • Where do you imagine Daedalus might be?
  • What clues does the artist give you to help you decide what moment in the story is portrayed?

Note: If at all possible, visit the Albright-Knox to view the actual work of art. It is always a more in-depth experience to see the artwork in person rather than in a reproduction. If your class sees the PowerPoint image first, please ask our Tour Coordinator to include the work in your class’ tour. Please note that the maximum number of students who can see this artwork in one tour, due to space and scheduling restraints, is sixty. After their visit, ask your students how the real work is different from the image they saw in class.

Additional Activities by Grade Level

Activity for Grades K–2

Have students choose to draw:
What happened before and after this moment in the story of Icarus
What Daedulus is doing at this moment in the story 

Activity for Grades 3–8

Have students choose to write a story that includes:
What happened before and after this moment in the story of Icarus
What Daedulus is doing at this moment in the story 

Additional Activity

Look at slide #2 of the Daedalus and Icarus: Two Perspectives presentation to explore a famous painting that illustrates the same myth. The painting is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, ca. 1558, originally believed to be by Pieter Bruegel.

Discussion could include:

  • Describe what you see going on in this painting.
  • Who are the characters? What are they doing?
  • What is the setting? The time of year?
  • Can you find Icarus?

Then, compare the two in slide #3:

  • What moment of the story of Daedalus and Icarus is depicted in each work?
  • What do you see here that you do not see in the sculpture?
  • What do you see in the sculpture that you do not see here?
  • Why do you think each artist chose to portray the story in a different way?

Optional Additional Activities (Grades 6–12)

  • Using whatever sculptural materials available, have your students sculpt Icarus at another point in the story. Suggest that they make a drawing first. The method that Richard Hunt used to make Icarus is called additive sculpture—parts are added to each other to build the final work. Students could use pieces of wood, cardboard, or other collected materials, or they could build a bendable wire base and add papier-mâché or clay to the figure.
  • Have your students research another Greek god or goddess, or a character from another Greek myth, and choose a story that features this character to illustrate. Discuss the exact moment in the story they are interested in depicting and have them make a sketch of the character at that point of the story and then construct their sculpture as above.
  • Have your students write an essay on the moment of the story they have chosen above, including what their character looks like, what he/she is doing, and what he/she is thinking, as well as how those characteristics are portrayed in their sculptural portraits.

Optional Additional Discussions (Grades 3–12)

  • What do your students think is the moral of the story of Daedalus and Icarus? Is there more than one?
  • Richard Hunt has said, “I would say my own use of winged forms in the early ’50s is . . . about, on the one hand, trying to achieve victory or freedom internally. It's also about investigating ideas of personal and collective freedom. My use of these forms has roots and resonances in the African American experience and is also a universal symbol. People have always seen birds flying and wished they could fly.” How does Icarus represent the ideas in this quote?
  • Explore other African American artists who have dealt with these ideas in other ways. Good artists to start with are Alison Saar, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems. You can find images of their works in our Collection pictured in slides #4–7 in the PowerPoint. The works by Kara Walker and Carrie Mae Weems are on view in the Gallery’s special exhibition DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, through January 6, 2013.

Additional Recommended Online Resources

For an overview of the richness of ancient Greek life gained through viewing works in the special exhibition Beauty, Life, and Spirit: A Celebration of Greek Culture, please see the Beauty, Life, and Spirit: A Celebration of Greek Culture presentation.

EDSITEment has an enormous amount of information about Greek myths, including Daedalus and Icarus. Please visit:

New York State Learning StandardS and Core Curriculum

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies 1, 2, 5
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 11
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 1, 2, 3, 11


  • Richard Hunt's Icarus, 1956: Audio for Grades K–8