Friday, April 20, 2007

The Use and Abuse of Anatomy

This is really a post about Gustinus Ambrosi (1893-1975)
whom I just re-discovered (above) last week in an auction house catalog.

I say "rediscovered" -- because, to my own surprise,
he was already on my own website -- his portrait of Gerhard Hauptmann being just one of many that the famous author commissioned on his own behalf.

But it also begs comparison
with other sculpture of this period that worked so
diligently with the details of human anatomy --

and given my ornery nature, I picked the above piece
(by Rudolph Tegners (1873-1950))
from my English friend, Robert Mileham's website

When I first saw this piece,
at the head of his post called "Art's best kept secret",
I thought he was being facetious -- I thought it was a gag --

because the piece seems so
broken - overwrought -- and utterly miserable to me.
Full of pinched, unhappy body shapes,
completely divorced from the surrounding base,
perhaps serving as a fine example of
melodramatic desperation
(has the poor thing been tied to the train tracks ?)

I've been wanting to talk about that Tegners piece ever since,
and I suppose the most successful contrast
would be with Auguste Rodin
(but he's so famous, everyone already knows that
they need to bow and scrape before him)

But who's ever heard of Gustinus Ambrosi from Vienna ?
Actually, he was quite a famous sculptor in his day,
and there's still a museum for him in his home town.

He completed about 2,500 sculptures including 600 portrait busts !
(and although his handicap is possibly irrelevant to sculpture,
he became deaf at the age of seven)

Maybe you could call his work
"fanciful naturalism" ---
since there's certainly a plethora of muscles and tendons,
but I don't think he's too concerned about
putting them into realistic places.

(like --- what happened to that poor man's neck ?
For me, it makes for a good sculpture,
but I doubt he'll ever stand up straight again!)

And what about this poor guy ?
His face has shriveled like a prune --
but still I'm enjoying him

Oh those Viennese !
A cross-pollination between Egon Schiele
and Rodin's "Hand of God"

And what happened to that man's torso ?
It's the energy bubbling up from the composition
and it sort of looks like human flesh,
---- sort of.

That's what I'd call a proper "Use of anatomy" --
even if it's an abuse of reality
(which gets highly overrated)


Blogger Robert said...

Yes, I like this chap too Chris. As you say however the Viennese can be a bit risqué at times, have a look at Jennmaur!

I will put some more cheerful works up from R T soon. I took over 200 photos of Life Drawings and other designs for paintings yesterday as a digital record of Harry R Mileham's stuff still in one place. It will take time to convert them from the raw images into internet size versions though.

April 21, 2007  

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