American Art of Our Century

By Lloyd Goodrich; John I. H. Baur | Go to book overview

15 traditional sculpture

Traditionalism in sculpture has a double meaning, and because of this it has exerted a double force. In a formal sense, sculpture has a long tradition of dealing, either classically or romantically, with the human body or other living creatures. In a technical sense, sculpture has an equally long tradition of being either carved or modeled, a solid, three-dimensional object created by subtraction or addition, that is, by hewing away or building tip form. The technical tradition has had a strong and lasting influence on the formal one and has proved both a limitation and a strength. Its limitations provoked the modernists' rebellion, but its strength has been a major factor in preserving the creative vigor of traditional sculpture through recent years.

The truth is that traditional techniques yield "sculptural" qualities which cannot be realized in any other way.The warm Botticini marble William Zorach uses in The Future Generation, the veined green serpentine of Koren Der Harootian's Eagles of Ararat, have an intrinsic beauty of their own which both artists have utilized in contrasting passages of rough and polished surfaces. The hewn look, the mark of chisel and point, the solidity, the sense of form emerging from the virgin stone, are all important parts of the aesthetic effect. Such works are rich in tactile values; they demand to be touched; they partake of the quality of precious objects.The hammered metal figures of José de Creeft and Saul Baizerman fall, technically speaking, about halfway between the restrictions of carving and the somewhat freer possibilities of modeling, and here, too, the materials and methods play important aesthetic roles. The dull fire of copper and the peculiarly luminous sheen of lead contribute much to the life of these pieces, while the hammered surfaces break and reflect light with an almost impressionist vivacity.

All these pieces are "realistic" in a sense, but the realism is strongly modified by the technical factors discussed above and, even more importantly, by the formal traditions with which the artists have allied themselves. Traditional sculpture is one of the few fields in which a genuine classicism still exists today. This has nothing to do with technique, for we find

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