I have always admired sculpture. I really don’t know much about it. I do know what I like. For the most part, I suppose my tastes tend toward conventional sculpture, whether ancient or contemporary. Marble would be my choice as a medium, but bronze and others have certainly the capacity to thrill.
We’ve seen plenty of sculpture, whether in museums, galleries or just on various screens. As with all forms of art, there are certain pieces that grab our attention and never let go. It’s those we will now examine. I have to add that bizarre, obtuse sculpture doesn’t linger in my mind. I have found it to be mostly forgettable. I’ve researched the subject to see what others find unforgettable, broadening my catalog from which to choose.
J. Anne Butler–Born to Dance
On strolls through museums or galleries, I have found myself captivated by sculptures of horses. Few creatures on our planet have more universal appeal than horses. They are poetry in motion. Just standing, they pose majestically. Ms. Butler has sculpted a lot of horses in inspiring representations of equine grace. She has been called “the most outstanding Arabian horse sculptor of her generation.” Born to Dance shows a mare and her foal rearing up as though in a wild dance.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini–Ecstasy of St. Theresa
This magnificent portrayal of an angel about to thrust an arrow into the body of St. Theresa as she wears a “bring it on” expression of submission summons such passion that it leaves me wondering what the nun was thinking. It turns out she was also a mystic who wrote about an encounter she had with an angel. It must have been a good one.
Jagannath Temple–12th Century
There are many beautiful carvings and sculptures in this Hindu temple. They represent many aspects of life. Here we have erotic sculptures of at least a couple Kama Sutra positions which, if I may be so bold, encourage and develop the sexuality segment of human existence.
Auguste Rodin–The Burghers of Calais
This remarkable depiction of a scene from The Hundred Years War between England and France is poignant in its despair and defeat. Calais had been under siege for over a year when these town elders offered themselves up for capture in exchange for allowing the citizenry to be spared. In a bold and revolutionary move, Rodin set his sculpture on a low pedestal to bring a sense of realism to the work. The people of Calais could stand next to their historic heroes in a local park.
This tribute to the Old Testament king of the Hebrews was finished by Michelangelo in 1504, some 40 years after it was started by another sculptor. Michelangelo was the third sculptor to work on it. It is one of the most famous sculptures of all time and it was done in the High Renaissance style.
Ms. Bourgeois was born in France. She died in 2010 at the age of 99. She created the daunting Spider in 1996. It’s huge, but they are made to various scales and there are ones much bigger than this.
Robert Smithson–Spiral Jetty
In the category of unique, Spiral Jetty stands out. It can be found on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. The materials were dug up onsite and consist of mud, salt crystals and basalt. Very durable, they were under water for decades until a drought revealed the sculpture once again.
The Terracotta Army–China circa 209 BC
When Emperor Shi Huang died in 210 BC, he was entombed. Nearby underground, approximately 8000 human-sized clay statues of soldiers were placed on guard to protect the deceased monarch. They were outfitted with actual weapons of the time and given horses and chariots. It was discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974. Currently, the army is touring the world and can be seen in October of this year in Santa Ana, California.
Bust of Nefertiti–Egypt in 1345 BC
This is one of the most striking sculptures ever. The beauty of Nefertiti, an Egyptian queen with Pharaoh Akhenaten, with delicate features far ahead of her time, is captivating. The condition and clarity of the face and neck are wondrous.
Auguste Rodin–The Thinker
Here he is, thinking about what could be the most recognizable sculpture of all time. If it isn’t this one, it must be on the short list. The bronze, the body, the pose is classic. It’s thought provoking, don’t you think? And it’s unforgettable.
To have a vision and then to be able to render it clearly in three-dimensional form is worthy of tremendous admiration and praise. Sculpture can reach deep within us and strike a chord that resonates strongly. The works we have seen here will be held in memory for a long time.