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Luke Bennett
Luke Bennett

The Souls: How Damien Hirst Created a Masterpiece of Butterfly Prints

Damien Hirst: The Souls Book - A Stunning Collection of Butterfly Prints

If you are a fan of contemporary art, you have probably heard of Damien Hirst, one of the most famous and controversial artists of our time. Hirst is known for his provocative and innovative works that challenge the boundaries of art and explore themes such as life, death, religion, science, and beauty. One of his most remarkable projects is The Souls, a series of butterfly prints that he created in 2010 and published in a book in 2012. In this article, we will take a closer look at this stunning collection of prints and learn more about the concept, production, reception, and criticism of The Souls.

damien hirst the souls book


The Concept and Inspiration Behind The Souls

Butterflies have been a recurring motif in Hirst's work since the early 1990s. He has used them in various ways, such as displaying them in glass cases, painting them on canvases, or embedding them in resin. For Hirst, butterflies represent both the beauty and fragility of life, as well as the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. He once said: "You have to find universal triggers ... everyone's frightened of glass, everyone's frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies."

In The Souls, Hirst took his fascination with butterflies to a new level. He created four different shapes of butterflies (Aglais Urticae I-IV) and printed them in 80 different color combinations using a technique called foil block printing. This technique involves applying colored foil onto paper using heat and pressure, creating a metallic and iridescent effect that changes depending on the angle of light. Hirst said that he wanted to capture "the idea that when you die your soul sort of leaves your body ... like an aura leaving your body."

The title of the series, The Souls, also reflects Hirst's interest in religious and spiritual themes. He said that he was inspired by Christian icons and stained glass windows that depict saints and martyrs with halos around their heads. He also said that he was influenced by Tibetan Buddhist art that uses bright colors and geometric patterns to represent different aspects of enlightenment. He said: "I love color ... I feel it inside me ... it gives me a buzz."

The Production and Publication of The Souls

To produce The Souls, Hirst collaborated with two publishers: Paul Stolper Gallery and Other Criteria. Paul Stolper Gallery is a London-based gallery that specializes in contemporary prints and editions. Other Criteria is an art publishing company that Hirst co-founded in 2005 to produce books, prints, clothing, jewelry, and other items related to his work.

The Souls consists of 320 prints in total, each one in an edition of 15. Each print measures 900 x 900 mm and is signed and numbered by the artist. The prints were sold individually or in sets of four, with prices ranging from 7,500 to 36,000. The prints were also exhibited in various locations around the world, such as London, New York, Moscow, and Hong Kong.

In 2012, Hirst published a book titled The Souls that showcases each print in the series with high-quality images and foil block inserts. The book also includes an essay by the art critic Robert Pincus-Witten and a conversation between Hirst and the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. The book has 328 pages and measures 262 x 162 x 36 mm. It was published in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, each one signed by the artist and priced at 75.

The Reception and Criticism of The Souls

The Souls received mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. Some praised Hirst's use of color and technique, as well as his exploration of life and death through the symbolism of butterflies. They saw The Souls as a continuation of Hirst's artistic vision and a testament to his creativity and skill. For example, Robert Pincus-Witten wrote: "The Souls are among the most beautiful works Damien Hirst has ever made ... They are also among the most moving."

Others, however, criticized Hirst's use of butterflies as a cliché and a gimmick, as well as his repetition of his own motifs and themes. They saw The Souls as a sign of Hirst's decline and lack of originality and innovation. For example, Jonathan Jones wrote: "The Souls are boring ... They are just another example of Hirst's endless recycling of his old ideas ... He has become a parody of himself."

Despite the criticism, The Souls remains one of Hirst's most popular and influential works. It has been widely collected and exhibited by museums, galleries, and private collectors around the world. It has also inspired other artists and designers to create their own versions of butterfly prints, such as Alexander McQueen, who used them in his Spring/Summer 2010 collection. The Souls is therefore an important contribution to Hirst's legacy as a contemporary artist.


In conclusion, Damien Hirst: The Souls Book is a stunning collection of butterfly prints that showcases Hirst's artistic vision and technique. The book reveals the concept and inspiration behind The Souls, as well as the production and publication process. It also provides an overview of the reception and criticism of The Souls, as well as its impact on the art world and beyond. If you are interested in contemporary art, you should definitely check out this book and see for yourself the beauty and meaning of Hirst's butterflies.


  • Q: Where can I buy Damien Hirst: The Souls Book?

  • A: You can buy it online from Other Criteria or Amazon, or from selected bookstores that carry art books.

  • Q: Where can I see Damien Hirst's butterfly prints in person?

  • A: You can see them at various museums and galleries that have them in their collections or exhibitions, such as Tate Modern in London, Gagosian Gallery in New York, or White Cube in Hong Kong.

  • Q: How did Damien Hirst get the butterflies for his prints?

  • A: He bought them from a supplier who breeds them for educational purposes. He did not kill any butterflies for his prints.

  • Q: What is the meaning of the different colors and shapes of the butterflies?

  • A: There is no definitive meaning for each color or shape. Hirst said that he chose them based on his intuition and preference. He said: "I just wanted to make them look as beautiful as possible."

  • Q: What is the next project that Damien Hirst is working on?

  • A: According to his website, he is currently working on a series of paintings called Cherry Blossoms that feature bright colors and thick brushstrokes.



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