The lips of "realistic" sculpture
In response to the above photos , a sculptor/critic wrote:
1) My belief is that if we set ourselves up to be Realistic sculptors then we will come under a higher standard when we are viewed by our peers. There are technical issues with the three busts I see on your website. Curve of the eye, shape of the nostril and that sort of stuff. I won’t bother with that because by now you already see those things.
2) Sculpture is all about the play of light and shadow. See the picture of the female, look at the way the light plays on her lips and the intersection between the lips and cheek. On the lower lip do you see the fat pads next to the corners of the mouth…there is also a second roll of flesh between the line that forms the cheek and the line that forms the chin. These details probably didn\’t exist in the extreme way the sculptor expressed them but they brought life to the piece. The way this sculptor treated the eyes are the most important thing for you to observe. The eyes are set back into their sockets to create a shadow line then the eyelids are brought out to catch the light…it\’s amazing what this does. Look at the Burghers of Calais….the upper eyelids are like hubcaps.
But then .... here are some other examples across history:
Portrait of Queen Tiye, c. 1350 BC
Franceso Laurana, c. 1480
Jean-Antoine Houdon, c. 1780
Charles Despiau, c. 1910
Milton Horn, c. 1945
So it appears to me ... that sometimes portraits show fat pads near the corner of the mouth -- and sometimes they don't. And sometimes there's a second roll of flesh between the cheek and the chin .. and sometimes there's not..... at least, in the portrait sculpture that has found a place in the canon of world art (note: Milton Horn is a bit tangential to that canon --- but I like to look at him anyway)
I'm raising this issue -- because as non-contemporary figure sculpture is slowly returning to educational institutions, it's important to let the full history of great sculpture set the standards --- or --- if a teacher/school/critic is going to focus on the 19th C. Beaux Arts tradition -- then it should be identified as such.
More importantly, I don't think that, outside museums of natural history, anatomical accuracy has any place in the critique of sculpture. That beaux-arts head shown above is beautiful/memorable not just because it has fat pads at the corners of the mouth, but because it has composed those elements into an expressive, poignant unity.
I enjoy many examples of the Beaux-arts style -- and can't blame anyone for promoting the style that they love -- but everyone else should remember that specific philosophies/feelings/attitudes are presented by specific styles --- not all female faces need to express discreet sensuality -- and a discussion of anatomical accuracy is beside the point.
And the point I'd like to make about Amanda Sisk's portraits of the young, married couple, is that they're beautiful -- expressing, at least to me, a kind of clearsighted, determined optimism of young people on the threshold of life-- and while I haven't made a comparative study of similar subjects done around the world -- this couple does seem particularly midwestern -- and maybe they should be displayed lying side-by-side (as in the photograph at the very top ) -- like lovers on a beach at night -- looking up at the stars.