The Happy Body
First -- I think what I'm missing is the feeling of happiness -- the figures in American (and German) sculpture just don't seem to be as happy in their bodies as the figures in recent Italian, Belgian, and French sculpture. The American figures (exemplified by the ones I showed in the Kelsey post) are not saying "I am happy - I am beautiful" -- they appear to be involved in some impending drama. (which is O.K. - I like drama -- but -- of course -- I'm an American)
This is the most memorable dancing figure for me in European sculpture - Carpeaux's facade for the Paris Opera ( multiple views can be found here ) These young people are just so happy to be in their bodies -- they're drunk-happy.
And this is the figure (by the Belgian, Rik Wouters) that I chose as the logo for my recent dance exhibit at my art club -- way happy -- just having-a-good-time. It's dance -- but it's not ballet --- and maybe ballet is part of the issue --- I mean -- I'm not sure how anyone can feel or look happy/comfortable when they are standing on their toes and extending their limbs into meticulously choreographed lines.
But here are some ballerinas by the Norwegian sculptor, Per Hurum -- and they feel more sensual/body-happy than the American ones, don't they ? (and I also feel that they are better sculptures)
Pierre De Soute
Here's a collection of more Belgian dance sculpture from the last century --- joyful -- sensual -- happy to have nice bodies
Here's a different kind of happy sensuality - the warm, Classical Italian kind -- whose figures are sometimes not so much happy Mediterranean girls as happy goddesses.
And then, finally, we have my favorite Swedish sculptor -- Carl Milles. These are Nordic goddesses -- so they are happy figures -- but they also are, maybe, just a little dangerous.