My Perception of Sculptures and Statues

I love sculptures as much as I love paintings, but my knowledge of this art form is very limited, so let’s go on a little journey together and see what we can learn.

First I must answer a question I have been asked lately. What is the difference between a sculpture and a statue?

A sculpture is any 3 dimensional object of any size and can be made from any material.

A statue has to be at least life size or larger, usually depicting a person or animal, and usually made of concrete, marble, bronze or even wood.

I think that statues evoke a wider and deeper range of emotions and, in my view, a statue has to be memorable. Great examples are found in the works of the late Eduardo Castrillo, a Filipino sculptor who died in 2016. In my opinion his work Redemption (1974) is remarkable and I find the figures extremely evocative and memorable.

Redemption by Eduardo Castrillo (1)

I am sure we will return to look at the works of Castrillo in a later post and you can judge for yourself. His Pieta is also very beautiful.

Eduardo Castrillo's Pieta (2)

An important aspect of sculpture that comes to my mind is that sculpture can be experienced by everyone. People who are visually impaired are able to engage in artistic appreciation of sculpture through the sense of touch.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that sight is not necessarily the dominant sense when many of us are appreciating a sculpture. Personally, I find my hands itching to gain a sense of the feel of a sculpture long before my eyes want to examine the form.

From my personal collection, The Little Dancer, a bronze by local sculptor Bill Ogilvie, is my favourite. She is about the only object that gets properly dusted at my place! I love the lines and delicacy that Ogilvie has created.

The Little dancer by Bill Ogilvie (My Photo)

We must not forget that some paintings also evoke a sense of touch from the presence of, for example, the inclusion of a velvet cloth or an animal's covering, especially fur.

Even though I know in my mind that there is no real life-like texture to feel, I still want to ruffle the fur of a dog in a painting or run my hands through the mane of a horse. Yes, a painting can evoke a tactile response, even if some people would think you were completely crazy if you were caught stroking the painting of a Newfoundland!

Wouldn’t you love to run your hands through the horse’s mane in this painting by James W Johnson? Sadly of course you are not allowed to touch any paintings but sometimes you can get away with stroking a sculpture!

Painting of a horse by James W Johnson (3)

Textile works also, of course, provoke a tactile response and we will be looking at these in the future especially as they are growing in momentum as an art form.
But for today, back to sculpture.

What piece of sculpture would you like to own if you could have anything in the whole world?

An interesting question and I hope I get some responses. Me? I wouldn't mind a copy of Bather created by French sculptor Barthélemy Prieur (c. 1536-1611).

Bather by Barthélemy Prieur (4)

In most cases sculptures don’t have a range of colour, as employed in most paintings. For me, this adds to the appeal of sculptures, so it’s not all about the feel.

Although I love to paint brightly coloured paintings I much prefer black and white photography than coloured. And my favourite sculptures are made from bronze with just a touch of green.

Did you know that bronze and brass turn green due chemical reactions between the copper in those alloys and the atmosphere? The green is most often copper carbonate.

This coloring is called a Patina or Verdigris and the Statue of Liberty is the most iconic example of this effect.

Statue of Liberty (5)

The Statue of Liberty is made of an iron frame with a sheet of pure copper hung over it. The torch flame is so bright because it is coated in gold leaf instead of copper. However, it wasn’t always that way—the flame, too, was originally coated in copper. During renovations to the statue in 1916, Gutzon Borglum, the man who sculpted Mount Rushmore, was appointed to cut away much of the copper surface of the torch’s flame and install glass windows. Snow and rain leaked in through the windows, adding to the corrosion. In the mid-1980s (the statue’s 100th birthday), the old torch was removed due to excessive damage and placed in the monument’s museum. The replacement torch is now covered with gold leaf. 6

My two favourite statues both involve horses which is not surprising as my favourite animal, in an artistic sense, is the horse. I love the Joan of Arc outside the Melbourne City Library, partly because she looks a bit like me in my younger years and I used to tell my friends I had, in fact, been the model! Surprisingly this is totally untrue!

Joan of Arc by Emmanuel Frémiet (7)

But the real reason I love this statue is that it was chosen to be erected in 1905 in Melbourne where a large majority of the citizens were, at that time, extremely attached to their British heritage. It is by the French sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet, who was known for his statues of Jeanne d’Arc in Paris (1874 and 1899), as well as replicas in Philadelphia (1889) and Nancy in France (1889) and it is indeed a beautiful work of art - the horse, in particular, is magnificent.

The locals in Melbourne were at first horrified that we had a statue of the young French girl Joan, The Maid of Orléans who had joined with a French army in driving the English out of Orleans in 1429 during the Hundred Years’ War. You can read the story of the statue of Joan and the controversy here.

My other favourite statue is this one of Marcus Aurelius (121-180AD), a Roman emperor. The statue from the 8th century was located near the Lateran Palace, until it was placed in the center of the Piazza del Campidoglio (Rome) in 1538 by Michelangelo. The original statue is now kept indoors to preserve it.8

Marcus Aurelius (8)

Marcus Aurelius ruled with his adopted brother, Lucius Verus, until Verus' death in 169AD, and with his son, Commodus, from 177AD. Aurelius was the last of the rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors. I'm not really into Roman Emperors, but Marcus Aurelius is one of my favourite philosophers, practitioner of Stoicism and his writings are considered by many to be amongst the greatest of works of philosophy.

This statue of Aurelius is the only original Roman bronze equestrian monument that has survived. Marcus Aurelius rides with his feet hanging free because stirrups hadn’t yet been invented. For a detailed description of the statue please follow this link.

If you have a favourite sculpture please let me know and we will showcase it on the blog.