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.
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
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
Here's another sculptor
who's hardly known outside of Italy,
but whose work could hang
beside the masters of the 16th C.
How many more great Italian 20th Century
sculptors like this one
are yet to be found ?
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
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)
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
For whatever reason,
Art Deco often favored young women
accompanied by slender dogs and deer (or antelope)
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)
..but it's also good for humor !
.. and I have no idea what these girls
are up to in this East German sculpture,
but the design maintains my curiosity
..nor do I know what these
young dudes are doing with these horses...
but again... I'm intrigued
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
..just like this portrait,
also by a Norwegian
(which had -- and still has -- a great school of sculpture)
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)
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
Here's the great relief sculptor from the U.K.,
but I don't think any Brits followed in his path
This is a Yugoslav sculpture from the 50's.
Is this every adolescent boy's fantasy ?
( peeking into a bath house ?)
The dramatic, multi-figure possibilities of relief
were well used here for telling one of the tragic
stories of the 20th C.
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.