Saturday, August 25, 2007


I was showing Kristin Krimmel
some pictures I recently posted here of
her countryman,
the Canadian painter,
James William Morrice,
when she told me about another one of her
historical favorites,
Marc-Aurele Suzor-Cote (1869-1937)

.. who doesn't have much on the internet

.. until now !

Isn't there something about him,
that just feels Canadian ?

A country with a little too much forest,
and not quite enough sun ?

Nothing Romantic about this rural scene,
just hard, back-breaking work

Could you imagine this piece
coming from south of the 49th parallel ?

There's just too much grim determination,
so you feel
that maybe that trapper
never will get these furs to market

Sad, hard lives can be lived anywhere,
but doesn't this life
seem especially French,
and beyond that,
especially French Canadian ?

More sadness,
even in the bedroom,
and couldn't those sheets
be cut-and-pasted
into a frozen river
winter landscape ?

Is it just my imagination
that this girl
is making a brave face,
but she really
wants to tell us
a sad story ?

She's not so sad,
but still
rather reserved


I just can't imagine
this nude ("The Itch")
coming from anywhere else
except the great north woods.

(where so many things love to bite)

I think this what you call "regionalism",
i.e. an art that expresses
how it feels to live, hope, and dream
in a specific time and place,
rather than addressing
the possibilities
of that universal,
mysterious practice
called "art"

(note: most of the above come
from the 1920's)

Ludovisi Throne

Continuing with my exploration of 5thC BCE Greek sculpture,
here's the Ludovisi Throne

As I have quickly discovered --
there's not that much to be found from this period --
or at least, not much that I like.
(I'm going to leave the Roman copies of it for another project)

But here's one that I love.

Unfortunately, when this piece was dug up in 1887,
it was unaccompanied by an explanation
of its iconography

Many of us moderns like to think of the above scene
as the "Birth of Venus"

But I take a slightly different view:

I think the above presents the transformation of girl into woman
(or virgin into nubile)

...since this accompanying scene shows us a younger girl,
a few years before the transformation

..while the other side of the "throne"
shows us an older woman, or crone,
several years after.

So what we've got is the three ages of woman,
a suitable furnishing for some kind shrine
devoted to female initiation.

Or --- even if it never got used that way in ancient times,
that's how I would use it
if I wanted to design such a temple

Isn't this lovely ?

Not so much as an especially attractive woman,
but as an ordinary woman
in a beautiful moment,
rising to meet her destiny

The sisters are helping each other,
yes, it's very sweet

(this jpg is larger, but the lighting was not
as good as the first one shown above)

and here's yet another viewing,
with yet another lighting,
and doesn't this show where
Joseph Bernard got his full, thick, slow
sense of feminine form ? (he was about 20 when this
piece was discovered)

This was probably
exactly the kind of thing
that men were forbidden to see,

the transformation to becoming sexual active
being secret and mysterious
as it should be.

So out of respect for its proper purpose,
only women should be allowed to view the
pictures on this post.

(note: additional pictures,
with alternate view-points and/or lighting
would be appreciated !)

Monday, August 20, 2007

He had to be dead

Surfing through the latest drawings
added this month to

I came across the above sketch by one Robert Fawcett

and even before investigating any further,
I just knew he had to be dead
(indeed -- he's been dead now for 40 years)

As the story goes... he started out in fine arts,
and only turned to illustration in desperation
to make a living.

What a loss to the artworld !

And what a tragedy
that nobody alive today
has his ability to draw the figure in space

20C Buddhist Sculpture

I've finally stumbled upon some serious 20C Buddhist sculpture !

The images are a bit fuzzy -- but it's better than nothing.

The sculptor is SAWADA Seiko (1894-1988)

And here are two questions:

*why are these pieces in a small, municipal art museum instead of a temple ?

*where are his students ?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

On the beauty of a necklace

What a fine coincidence,

Phyllis bought the necklace this morning,
brought it to the sculpture workshop
in the afternoon,
and how nice it looked
around the model's throat.

(gold and red look so good together!)

Where's Titian when we really need him ?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Golden Age

I've recently discovered ..

that there's not much classic Greek sculpture
on the internet,
(at least in nice, big, fat, well-lit pictures)

The only museum that's been serious about
showing their collection online is the Louvre.

So ... since I am man with way too much time on his hands,
and since 5th Century Greece
is as important to European sculpture
as it is to literature, philosophy, and history....

I am, again, beginning a new project:

collecting all the good looking photographs of sculpture from that period
and posting them to my website.

(I'm counting on there not being way too many,
since most of the bronzes and marbles from that era
have been burned or melted down
by various entrepreneurial barbarians
over the intervening 24 centuries)

Starting out with the legacy of Thomas Bruce,
7th Earl of Elgin,
Here are some of the sculptures from the Parthenon (443-438 BCE)
(from the Frank Brommer book, 1977)

Obviously, what's spectacular here is
the architectural application of human anatomy --

as it proceeds in languorous, stately, almost geometric rhythms
around the entablature of the hilltop temple
(which might also be found in Egypt or Persia)

.....but it also introduces an anatomical quality
that's unique to the European tradition that followed it.

You can feel bone, skin, muscle, vein, tendon --
just as if you might find in real men and horses,
yet more than just a collection of details,
these bodies feel dynamic, healthy, and athletic.

The entire, illusionary space feels joyous and dynamic,
all achieved within 5 cm of stone surface.

Here's a few wonderful details of feet,
both equine and human.

It's hard to imagine that this confluence of shapes,
foreground to background,
left to right,
in stillness and action,
was not conceived without many months of
trial and error in a medium more forgiving than stone.

And maybe the idea of splaying out
the forelegs of that mighty bull
as they cross in front of the figures ahead of him
only came when the sculptor grabbed some clay legs
and yanked them up
in a flashing, felicitous moment.

(it would certainly transform a monotonous procession
into a barely-checked riotous stampede)

These are men (or boys) and horses having fun,
and other than being perhaps exceptionally vigorous and healthy,
they're ordinary
and this is an ordinary ( or at least an annual)
holiday scene on the main thoroughfare of Athens.

It's not a mythic space with gods, heroes, or prophets --
it's a real, public space with people and domesticated animals.

That's how it differs from the programs of
art on all the other great temples of the world.

And they let their carnality all hang out, don't they ?

Yes, I'm going to like this project.

(even if I suspect that I'll never find
anything else as good as the Parthenon sculptures)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hakone Heads

Isshiki Kunihiko (b. 1935)

Located about 60 miles south of Tokyo,
in the national park that includes Mt. Fuji,
the Hakone Open Air Museum
was opened in 1969
as a kind of modern-art theme park,
so it's got the required Picasso Pavilion,
26 pieces by Henry Moore,
and representative works of the canonical European masters.
(Maillol, Rodin, Bourdelle, Rosso, Brancusi,
Despiau, Milles, Boccioni, Leger, Laurens,
Archipenko, Arp, Ernst, Zadkine,Gabo, Miro,
Hepworth, Giacometti, Marini, Manzu)

There's only two native -born Americans,
Calder and Rickey
(and neither of them are figure sculptors)

But it also has a rather thorough collection of
20th C. Japanese figure sculpture,
including many sculptors who can barely
be found on the internet (if at all)

Yuichi Sakurai (1914-1981)

Once a collector steps outside the canon,
what, besides taste,
can determine what gets collected ?

And if the Japanese don't have good taste,
who does ?

(compare this national museum of sculpture
with its American equivalent - Brookgreen gardens,
with its unfortunate tradition of bombast,
begun by its wealthy founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington

There seem to be three streams that come together here:

One of them being Japanese ceramics (especially seen in the above two pieces)

These are like pots that have become heads
(a fine thing for them to do!)

Ueki Tsutomu (b. 1913)

Maybe a bit cartoonish,
but a nice strong character
in that cartoon

Masamichi Yamamoto (b. 1941)

These Japanese sculptors can present
a convincing character,
but just can't forget that they're
trying to make a handsome pot.

Yasuda Shuzaburo (1906-1981)

This one is more just like a pot
in the wabi-sabi tradition,
but it also feels like it could be the portrait
of a very up-tight executive,
doesn't it ?

Churyo Sato (b. 1912)

A second stream of influence I'd note,
would be the kind of modern Italian elegance,
found in Emilio Greco or Giacomo Manzu

So urbane.

Asakura Kyoko (b. 1925)

More Italian

Kakei Goro (b. 1930)

But this is more a Noh mask,
without the high-finish,
so only the essentials reman

Hideo Hase (1900-1986)

Another piece that feels European
(do Japanese have necks that long ?)
(does anyone have a neck that long ?)
(should this be called "Mannerism"?)

Hiromori Kuwahara (b. 1927)

And this looks exactly like the portrait
I did of my wife, 30 years ago

Kato Kensei (1894-1966)

This is where I see the third stream of influence:

Especially strong in the early 20th C.

Hirose Kazuko (b. 1935)

But then .. this meditative piece feels Buddhist

Nishi Tsuneo (b. 1911)

Very convincing as a real person,
the kind who's made one too many
difficult business decisions.

(his name was Yoshi Fujiwara --
I wonder whether he's descended from
Lady Murasaki's friend,
Fujiwara Michinaga)

Hiroatsu Takata (b. 1961)

While I'm doubting that this realistic character
ever made a business decision in his life
(the poet, Jean Cocteau)

Yoshida Yoshido (b. 1912)

While this person could be anyone
(as indeed she could -- being a professional actress)

Takashi Shimizu (1897-1981)

This feels like a later French style,
for example

Iwano Yuzo (1931-1987)

Jiro Hashimoto (b. 1919)

Kai Ito (b. 1918)

Amenomiya Jiro (1889-1970)

Amenomiya Keiko (b. 1931)

Funakoshi Yasutake (b. 1912)

Yoshi Kinouchi (1892-1977)

Have you noticed who's missing ?

There's no sculptors born during the 1920's.
(I think that generation of young men
was pretty much annihilated during the war)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dutch Sculpture: c. 1950

Bertus Sondaar

Here's some selected pieces of the Dutch sculptors
to whom Peter Hoogerwerf just introduced me.

This is the generation born around 1900.

I couldn't find anything else that I liked by the above sculptor,
but isn't that a strong, beautiful bust

.. of a person who seems wide-eyed, curious enough
to explore the world,
and strong enough to handle whatever she finds ?

(and isn't that the role of the Netherlands in modern history,
as explorers of the world,
and innovators in republican government ?)

Mari Andriessen

This is my idea of really heroic statuary,
presenting a citizen
as he faces the firing squad.

Thank goodness I was born in such
an easy place and time.
(or that would likely have been me)

Mari Andriessen

A sensitive, introspective person is being presented,
and it's hard to tell the gender.

At first I thought this was a woman,
but it could also be John, the beloved disciple,
at the foot of the cross.

John Raedecker

I don't feel this figure could be anything but Dutch --
well, maybe Scandinavian.

If it were a monument to some great, human quality,
what would that be ?

If it were speaking,
I think he's say:

"Whatever it is, I will take it as it comes"

Arie Teeuwisse

There's a certain humor,
or affability about the way Dutch sculpture
honors distinguished people.

Charlotte van Pallandt

Wow ... what a powerful head !

Peter tells me that CVP was the grand dame of Dutch sculpture,
and the power/determination/compassion
of this piece tells me why.

(though I can't stand some of her large monuments)

Arthur Spronken

From what I've seen,
this guy specialized in horses.

Most of them are much more anatomically detailed than this one,
but they also are radically distorted.

This simpler, ceramic-like piece
suits me just fine.

Han Wezelaar

I really go for this Egyptian, timelessness quality.
Could it be called the cultivation of slowness ?

There will always be cute children,
there will always be tender mothers,
and I am glad it is so.

Han Wezelaar

Yes, this man is 12 feet high,
and yes, he must be very famous.

But he also feels like
an ordinary man
who's a bit confused,
and not quite sure
why he's been put up on a pedestal.

And that's why I like him.

Pieter D'Hont

This is the sculptor,
in whose former studio,
Peter and his colleagues are now working.

(Peter says he had no time for students)

Some foolish, anatomy crazed, neo-academician
would say:
"but look, the head and neck are too big"

But Anne Frank is not a girl any more,
she's an immortal angel,
and that's the way she should look.

Pieter D'Hont

There would seem to be some tragic, public event
that summoned this statue

Jan Van Luyn

As I recall, Peter said that he studied with this man,
(although his own sculpture is very different)

To me,
this looks like a quick sketch,
so it feels fresh and exciting,
but I'm not sure I'd enjoy walking
past it, and around it
every day.

Jan Van Luyn

Piet Esser

A very ambitious monument,
that reminds me of the things
more often found in the Soviet Union.

It feels like it belongs in a cemetery,
doesn't it ?