Sunday, May 27, 2007

Relief sculpture after 1900


Why did I make my giant web museum,
if not to apply it to topics
like the one raised last week by
Amanda Sisk concerning sculptural relief ?

Are there any good contemporary examples ?
Amanda suggested the National Sculpture Society website,
but I beg to differ -- other, perhaps than Amy Kann
whose portrait reliefs are sweet and pleasant
-- which may not be remarkable compared with earlier eras
-- but in our time -- that's quite an accomplishment.

Overall, the NSS figurative reliefs
have the same mis-direction
that's found everywhere else:
the sculptor is thinking of the figure
rather than the relief
as being what's expressive.

But looking a bit earlier back into the last century --
there really was quite a revival in this genre
especially in Italy,
the motherland of European sculpture.

Venanzo Crocetti

And it wasn't just the famous guys like Manzu,
probably a trip through small Italian museums
will unearth many more as powerful as these

Emilio Greco

I remember 30 years when I first saw this picture
and was blown away
by a sculptural program
that falls nothing short of the Romanesque
in power and mystery

Lello Scorzelli

Here's another sculptor
who's hardly known outside of Italy,
but whose work could hang
beside the masters of the 16th C.

Francesco Nagni

How many more great Italian 20th Century
sculptors like this one
are yet to be found ?

Lucio Fontana

Ten -- fifty -- a hundred -- a thousand ?
This kind of liturgical work is so neglected
by the modern museums,
only an Italian specialist would know.


There's plenty of relief from France as well,
but they had issues with the church
going back to the time when revolutionary mobs
defaced the great cathedrals,

and this has always been my favorite
war memorial

Pierre Marie Poisson

But most French work could be called decorative,
the stuff to go in lobbies of hotels
or the salons of ocean liners.


(this poor sculptor was not famous enough to
merit printing his full name -- but there is
no one alive anywhere near as good)

Leon Drivier

I'm really a sucker for this kind of deep relief,
-- the best of both worlds --
i.e. full-round sculpture
that doesn't need to care about 360 degrees of viewing

Celine Lepage

For whatever reason,
Art Deco often favored young women
accompanied by slender dogs and deer (or antelope)

Otto Munch

And for some different reason,
the sculptors of northern Europe
liked work that was more dramatic and expressive
(for which medieval sculpture offers such fine examples)


and they're also not averse to
sculpture that relates Man to God


Isn't relief the perfect medium for sorrow ?
(where the figures feel real/tangible,
but they're still locked into an imaginary space)

Gerhard Geyer

..but it's also good for humor !

Fritz Cremer

.. and I have no idea what these girls
are up to in this East German sculpture,
but the design maintains my curiosity

Edwin Scharff

..nor do I know what these
young dudes are doing with these horses...
but again... I'm intrigued

Nils Aas

Of course, there's also the large genre
of medallions and coins,
and mostly I've avoided that on this post ...
except for this one -- since it's so expressive

John Ekeland

..just like this portrait,
also by a Norwegian
(which had -- and still has -- a great school of sculpture)

Carl Milles

I'm sure there's also a lot more
good relief work from Sweden
that I just haven't yet found.

(this reminds me of those great Romanesque bronze
doors from Aachen)

Omar Eldaroff

There was plenty of narrative
relief work from the USSR --
and from the 1930's in the US as well,
but most of it seems intent on being boring.

But not this Azeri sculptor,
who lived long enough to see the evil empire vanish,
along with opportunities for talented sculptors
like himself

Eric Gill

Here's the great relief sculptor from the U.K.,
but I don't think any Brits followed in his path

Francisek Smerdu

This is a Yugoslav sculpture from the 50's.
Is this every adolescent boy's fantasy ?
( peeking into a bath house ?)

Nathan Rapoport

The dramatic, multi-figure possibilities of relief
were well used here for telling one of the tragic
stories of the 20th C.

Milton Horn

And here's another great Jewish sculptor
who brought the first book of Torah
to the Chicago Water Filtration Plant.

This is my idea of great relief
... but maybe that's just me.


Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Eric Gill was a many of many additional talents -- I became acquainted with his typeface design, then his book design, when I was in college, and his work in those disciplines was just great.

The Wikipedia entry I just read shed other, more disturbing, light on Gill's life -- Chris, you've again helped keep me learning!

May 28, 2007  
Anonymous Amanda J. Sisk said...

1. Re-read my dry sentence to grasp that I was not and am not advocating the NSS as a source for great - or good - relief sculpture.

2. Your images are not loading on my computer. I shall have to revisit your post.

3. I have recently delighted in my preferred company of stone and the dead...Isola di San Michele has a wealth of relief sculpture to study. One could easily spend days there - the vast majority of Venezia's other sculptural output is dismal...but here...HERE! If my companion sees fit to forward me the images secured on a distant camera, I should like to share those with you. I feel a grant proposal in happy I should be studying in such environments. No one molests young women with razor-sharp pencils in burial places...but the seagulls do pose something of a threat.

May 28, 2007  
Anonymous Amanda J. Sisk said...

Mmm. This Drivier is intriguing. Am I correct in understanding it as alto-relief that can be viewed from two sides? Not quite sculpture in the round, not quite traditional relief... a sculptural object of interest, nonetheless.

May 28, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Amanda: Yes, I think I've a side view that shows the figures are in-the-round ---- but I fear we'll never get to see the real thing.

Lori: I've never been comfortable with the quality of the sexuality felt in Gill's sculpture -- but that Wikipedia article (and there's more elsewhere on the internet) was something of a shocker -- and I also didn't know he was responsible for such a strong typeface.

So I think it's you who keep me learning !

It appears that suffered from an occupational hazard of being an artist/prophet: megalomania.

May 28, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Oh, I knew Gill, too, but not a Gill of sculpture. Interesting.

"the sculptor is thinking of the figure rather than the relief
as being what's expressive." This is one of those simple but profound ideas that pop out of the sage heads at Mount Shang.

I enjoyed this tumultous passage very much--really loved some of the pieces.

May 31, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

I hate it when people agree with me !

It only means that -- now --- I have to argue against my own
assertions -- and maybe -- the problem with our contemporary figure sculptors is much worse.

It's not that they don't realize that it's the "sculpture not the figure that's doing the expressing" -- it's that they actually want their sculptures to be expressing the qualities of anger, alienation and misery that
they have achieved -- whether it's the highbrow Giaccometti or the middle-brow Richard McDonald -- or the anonymous low brows who model monster toys.

May 31, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Pierre Marie Poisson's War Memorial I like very much, but if it helps with your natural argumentative nature there is a lot of other stuff you like which I hate with a vengeance!! (And if I was a ten year old I would add “so there”!)

"Leon Drivier and the deep relief being the short cut to 360 degree viewing" is for the purest a cheat. One might have to resort to relief for both practical and aesthetic reasons but to avoid having to create a 360 degree viewing is a bad one.

I will send you some more stuff by email soon as promised.

June 02, 2007  

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