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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Small Bronze Sculptures For Decoration

By Helen Comstock

( Orginally published June 1945 )



Small bronzes preserve something of the power and strength of life-size works and yet by their size are suited to the decoration of a home. The glint of light playing on the surface of bronze is unlike any other effect of painted surface or the glaze of pottery; neither can rival the unctuous quality of bronze.

There are a number of contemporary American sculptors who have achieved distinction with their small works in bronze, in addition to subjects on large scale. One of these is Janet Scudder who is represented here by the figure, Winged Victory. Miss Scudder is the first American woman whose work was acquired for the Luxembourg in Paris. She worked for many years in France and for a long time at her studio in Ville d'Avray specialized in garden fountains. Her Frog Fountain was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago has her Fighting Boy Fountain; the Tortoise Fountain is at the Peabody Institute, Baltimore. She has also designed the seal for the Bar Association in New York and medallions in the Congressional Library, Washington.

Miss Scudder was born at Terre Haute, Indiana. and was a pupil of the Cincinnati Art Academy. She studied with Lorado Taft in Chicago and Frederic Macmonnies in Paris. She won many awards beginning with a medal of the Columbian Exposition. Chicago, 1893; a bronze medal, St. Louis Exposition, 1904; honorable mention, Paris Salon, 1911; and a sculpture prize at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, 1915. Miss Scudder is particularly successful in her figures suggestive of movement in flight; they seem to triumph over the force of earthly gravity.

An eminent American sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, is represented here by the equestrian figure, Dejected Boer, which was exhibited at the Exposition des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1901, at the time when the South African conflict was dividing the sympathies of the world. Borglum, who has won fame with his colossal sculpture, proves that he can work on a small scale with great effectiveness. Every line of the figure shows the mood of the subject, while the modelling of the horse is exceptional in its suggestion of life-like movement.

Borglum was born in Idaho in 1867 and studied at the San Francisco Art Association. As a young man he went to Paris and studied at the Academic Julien and became a member of the Societe Internationale des Beaux Arts. Returning to this country, he settled in New York in 1902. He executed the Sheridan monument in Washington, D. C.; the colossal head of Lincoln for the Capitol and is represented at the Metropolitan Museurn of Art by his Mares o f Dionredes. He also created the Lincoln Memorial at Newark, New Jersey, and is represented by the Flyer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. His best known work has been the carving of colossal portraits of the Presidents out of his mountainside at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, an undertaking which he left unfinished at his death in 1941.

"The Scout" by Cyrus E. Dallin represents another well-known American sculptor. Dallin was born at Springfield, Utah, in 1861, and studied with Chapu in Paris. One of his first awards was an honorable mention at the Paris Salon in 1890. He received a medal of the first class at the Colurnbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and a silver rnedal at the Paris Exposition in 1900; awards at Buffalo in 1901; St. Louis in 1904; and San Francisco in 1915.

There is a great deal of variety in Dallin's work, although he made a specialty of Indian subjects, such as the Appeal to the Great Spirit in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Medicine Mart in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia; The Hunter in Arlington, Massachusetts; and Signal a f Peace in Lincoln Park, Chicago. He also executed the Pioneer Monument in Salt Lake City in his native Utah. Our figure of The Scout, is a splendid piece of observation, and thoroughly satisfying as an Indian subject. The vanishing Red Man is represented by an artist whose first-hand knowledge was combined with exceptional skill. Ever since the artists' exploration of the West began, they have been fascinated with the picture of Indian life. George Catlin in 1832 made an extensive journey to the northwest and published his North American Indian portfolio. Audubon described vividly what he saw as a result of his visit to Yellowstone in 1841. Prince Maximilian of Wied published descriptions of his travels of the 1830's with illustrations by Karl Bodmoer. A list of travelling artists of the nineteenth century who portrayed the Indian would be a long one.

Dallin belongs to the generation which still had the opportunity, to see the last vestiges of native Indian life and his work has an authenticity which will appeal to the serious collector, while its fine sculptural quality places him among the foremost American sculptors.

Of a similar character is the Indian sculpture with the same title, The Scout, by Prince Paul Troubetzkoy, who came to this country after the last war. This artist was trained in Europe where he is represented in Paris, Rome, Venice and Moscow. Born in Italy in 1866 he studied there and in Russia and France. Since coming to this side of the Atlantic his work has been acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Toleda Museum of Art and the Museum of Buenos Aires.

Supreme among artists of the west is Frederic Remington whose fame as an illustrator of western life through his paintings and drawings is equal to his fame as a sculptor. A Remington bronze is so widely appreciated that examples rarely stay long in a dealer's collection. Although he became the great interpreter of western life in its most picturesque phase in the 1870's, "80's and `90's, he was not born in the west but was actually a citizen of New York state. However, his many years in the west and southwest, where he had actual experience as a cattleman, gave him a knowledge of western life which his remarkable facility as an artist enabled him to interpret on canvas and on bronze. He knew everything about horses and no one has portrayed the movements of the horse in action with such scientific accuracy as Remington. The difficult subject of a horse sliding down a steep bank with his front legs rigidly straight and the back legs grasping an insecure foothold is represented here in his figure of The Trapper. The man himself, in his fringed buckskin, sits nonchalantly in the saddle, maintaining his balance with ease and relaxation in a posture which the sculptor has studied with fine exactitude. Remington made a number of trips to Canada and this subject suggests a French Canadian. Lieutenant Alvin H. Sydenham's Journal describes Remington on a visit to a military camp in the time of one of the Indian uprisings in the Dakotas in the 1890's. He expected to see the well-known artist with a sketch book, but Remington never used a pencil in camp. He simply looked at everything* intently and worked from memory. The result had the accuracy of a photograph, and the something added which is art.

Among American women sculptors Bonnie Mac-Leary is one of the best known, and the Goose Girl is a highly admired example of her work. Miss MacLeary was born at San Antonio, Texas, and like, so many American artists gained much of her education at the Academic Julien in Paris. She has also studied with the famous American sculptor. James Earle Fraser. Her sculpture entitled Admiration is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bonnie MacLeary's work shows an understanding of how to handle contrasts of light and dark so as to gain a quality of rhythm which lends movement to the figure from whatever angle it is viewed.

Bronze Statue - Winged Victory