Monday, February 05, 2007

Joy of Life

What a coincidence !

I just found a sculpture (pictured above) with the same title ("Joy of Life") that one of my internet friends (Amanda ) has taken as her blogging name.

And yet --- this statue -- by William Hamo Thornycroft hardly suggests life to me -- indeed -- it feels funereal.

I mean -- the subject is all youthful -- athletic -- upbeat ----- but somehow --- it's something that I would expect to find in a cemetery, perhaps marking the grave of a young, promising ballerina who was hit by train one day.

Or maybe, it should be found in a heavy glass display case at the Museum of Natural history -- down the hall from the room with the perfectly preserved butterflies and beetles.

It just feels dead -- but I can't say why.


Blogger marlyat2 said...

Thought 1:
If people will insist on dressing ballerinas in coarsely frilled winter cabbage leaves, that will always be in the end result. It is hard to feel truly joyful, light, and lithe while dressed in cold cabbage leaves.

Thought 2:
"'s something that I would expect to find in a cemetery, perhaps marking the grave of a young, promising ballerina who was hit by train one day." So often I am compelled to think, "If only Edward Gorey were alive!"

Thought 3:
The really interesting thing is why new art of all sorts sometimes gives the illusion of life when it is actually dead. Or perhaps the question is why certain kinds of art have only a very limited life.

Thought 4:
I ought not to drop by so often because really I am entirely too busy to do so. But you have such an incredible variety of posts and dig up such interesting treasures out of the world-midden.

February 05, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Why did people stop putting sculpture into cemeteries after about 1920 ?

Because Victorian style sculpture went out of fashion.

February 06, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Did this happen in America too. I had assumed it was to do with space in churchyards and was the Church authorities banning it. That is certainly true now, the rules of what you are allowed to put up are draconion.

February 06, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

I used to be fond of graveyard picnics in the manner of the Victorians. Had lots of them in Albany, once upon a time, with friends. It was so pleasant to eat good food in good company (and any of the bad company who might have been lying about kept silent) and stroll around and see a bit of the cemetery.

That's Albany Rural Cemetery, where Chester Arthur and Erastus Corning and loads of other New Yorkers of note are buried. You'd like it. The only bothersome thing was that in tent caterpillar season, hordes of the critters were basking or trundling about the stones.

I also remember a spectacular picnic on the town green at Tiverton Four Corners, sitting next to the shelter of the graveyard wall. A very different graveyard, though--colonial and federalist.


But Victorian sculpture wasn't replaced by another sort. Does that mean that Modernist sculpture simply had no place in the cemetery? It certainly offered no comfort!

February 06, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

It is almost a highland fling (or it could be an Irish version). It is dark patina, difficult to photograph and a small image.

I wonder if it is an ornament rather than a sculpture? I have always felt there is a difference. The latter is Art, the former is (perhaps) Craft, or leaning in that direction. William Morris was on to all that in more detail than I will ever dare.

I think your funereal feelings for this work may have something to do with the patina. If she was painted in gay colours (gay in its original meaning), then, would you feel the same way? Or may be she is dancing on her husband's grave (or step-mother's) for reasons of her own!

If, as the sculptor, you are “held” to use dark patina (by tradition, convention, or the need to conform in order to sell), then you have huge problems with this. It is only the genius of someone like Prince Paul Troubetskoy who can make the contrast between “flesh” and “clothing” and succeed with honours.

Alternatively it may be the way she holds her head. This is a “sad head” position.

The more I learn of this great Subject of “figure sculpture” the more interesting it gets. Children often hold their heads quite differently to adults; women to men; and interpreting their body language is fascinating! The way the African walks is quite different to that of the Japanese or the European. Even within ethnic groups we are so very different. A French girl will flirt quite differently to a German. Yes, you can ask me to show you. I plan to do this very thing! Do we dance differently at a funeral than at a wedding? This too may depend on your ethnic origin!

The spirit of the thing is perhaps without the smile it should have to fit the title? To tight, it is without the “abandon” and the “glee” that should accompany it.

Finally you have the problem with clothing. Our taste in clothing changes. Our prejudices in clothing is a problem too, not everyone likes a girl in cowboy kit. Or a chap in a frock or looking like Henry the eighth! This girl is in a very “girlie” dress but “dated” and to my mind not particularly “classic” in style. (A bit stiff like the chap in the coffin (casket)?)

It was Mr Thornycroft I think that did some others like this in biscuit ware (in the V and A) girls waving long scarves in jolly vain but with heads up. I liked the medium. The skill in sculpturing was excellent.

I wonder what you will think of Mr Pegram's “Amitie” when I show you. You will have to wait as I haven't photographed it yet.

Hope you are made jollier with the next “find”. Can't have you in funereal mood too long.

(I wrote all this before I read about Marly's news, please forgive me if it seems a little insensitive.)

February 06, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

All right, she must have depressed you--the scorching pace of your discoveries and posts has fallen off.

February 07, 2007  

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