Albert Elsen

  • Drawing and the True Rodin

    Recognition of the excellence of Rodin’s drawing has suffered due to the attention given his sculpture and because of the abundance of forgeries that outnumber authentic drawings in this country. To begin to counter both of these conditions an exhibition, “Rodin Drawings, True and False,” conceived by this writer and selected by J. Kirk T. Varnedoe, has been shown at the National Gallery of Art and opens on March 9th at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Our book, Rodin Drawings, published by Praeger, accompanies the exhibition; in it Mr. Varnedoe presents the drawings for the first time in a

  • The Partial Figure

    IT IS DIFFICULT TO RECONSTITUTE all of the private as well as published reactions that the public has had to the partial figure in sculpture since Rodin began to exhibit his unmade or fragmented figures in the late 1880s. There are probably strong common denominators between our own intellectual and instinctive responses and those of our predecessors. The confrontation in sculpture of a figural part, such as an arm or leg, or a limbless torso, disappoints intellectual and esthetic ideals of wholeness; bringing unity to diversity of shapes and experiences, it contradicts our inclination to favor

  • Jack Burnham’s Beyond Modern Sculpture

    Jack Burnham, “Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of This Century” (George Braziller, 1968); 402 pages, 135 illustrations in black and white.

    AFTER YEARS OF CONSIDERABLE NEGLECT, modern sculpture is beginning to experience an eager courtship by publishers anxious to present its history in the same coffee table format with cafeteria content that has afflicted modern painting. We are already wading in the first waves of books on sculpture whose covers are too far apart or which you can’t pick up once you’ve put them down. (Recently we have even been

  • The Sculpture of Matisse, Part IV

    THE DREAM OF MAKING MONUMENTAL sculpture preceded by many years Matisse’s actual execution of the first relief of The Back in 1909. Far from having a “distinct aversion”1 to the scale and grandeur of the ancients (and his cast of the Apollo Piombino, and Greek marble torso must be kept in mind) or harboring a complete antipathy to Renaissance sculptors, as some writers would have us believe, it is conceivable that Matisse sought in this series to do for modern monumental decorative art what Michelangelo and the Greeks had done for religious sculpture. The problems of time, expense, and lack of

  • Brancusi, A Study of the Sculpture

    Sidney Geist, Brancusi, A Study of the Sculpture (Grossman Publishers,
    New York, 1968), 248 pages, illustrations.

    Toward the end of his life Rodin was asked how it felt to be the greatest sculptor of the last century. He replied that this was no great honor as there were so few great sculptors in his time. To say that Sidney Geist’s book on Brancusi is the best on a modern sculptor beggars his achievement, for there are so few good books to begin with. What has hindered our understanding of modern sculpture is not the lack of a bibliography or its neglect by historians in favor of painting, but

  • The Sculpture of Matisse, Part III

    THE EVOLUTION AND CHARACTER of Matisse’s sculpture were an outgrowth of his exposure to Western sculpture from classical antiquity to the salon artists of his day. This was in part the argument of the preceding articles. It has been often suggested that in at least a few sculptures between 1905 and 1908, Matisse showed a susceptibility to African art in terms of postures, proportions, and “angular” modeling. His sculpture of Two Negresses, first exhibited in the Salon d’Automne of 1908 as A Group of Two Young Girls and then as Two Sisters, it is generally agreed, though distinctly in his style,

  • The Sculpture of Matisse, Part I

    IF MATISSE WAS SURVIVED BY only his sculptures he would have to be regarded as a major artist, not because of influence, but rather for the intrinsic excellence of his works. The great retrospectives put on recently in this country and currently by the Arts Council in England have given these sculptures a greater exposure than during the artist’s lifetime. Paradoxically, it is the late cutouts such as the large Snail in the Tate Gallery and not Matisse’s modeled forms which today seem most prophetic and relevant to those artists in England and America who look upon sculpture as flat colored

  • The Sculpture of Matisse, Part II

    MATISSE’S FRIENDS OBSERVED THAT sculpture served the artist by “enriching” his resources and providing another outlet for his vast energies.1 “I practiced sculpture, or rather modeling,” commented Matisse, “as a complementary study to put my ideas into order.”2 The ideas to which he referred, as discussed in the previous article and traceable to the Notes of a Painter, of 1908, included the search for finding ways of expressing his feeling for life, the nature of expression and how it was to be achieved in composition, and what constituted the essential in nature and form. It is not paradoxical

  • Surprise, Invention, Economy in the Sculpture of Picasso

    IN HIS SCULPTURE, PICASSO CONTRADICTS the views the views of both the public and many sculptors that the artist should always be straightforward, stylistically single-minded (or single-moded), constantly working to the very limits of his ability, and displaying reverence toward his craft and materials.1 Sculptures like his bicycle-derived Head of a Bull and the modeled Skull, show that he can be playful as well as serious, and that there are as many modes to his style as he has moods, motifs and materials to work with. Like owners of great cars he prefers to operate not flat out, but with

  • The Sculpture of Duchamp-Villon

    “HE IS DYING BECAUSE no one believes in him.” This was Bourdelle’s explanation for his Dying Centaur, made in 1914, the same year as Duchamp-Villon’s Horse. These two sculptures are good examples of the backward and forward look of modern sculpture on the eve of World War I. For Duchamp-Villon the powers of mathematics, engineering and the machine were more inspiring and relevant to art and the time than the creatures of ancient myth. Perhaps the Horse has more successfully endured than the Centaur because the term, concept and admiration of horsepower are still with us. For many sculptors,

  • Rodin’s Modernity

    THERE IS IRONY IN THE FACT that Rodin’s modernity becomes more apparent with the passing of time. His most famous, but by no means best works, such as The Kiss and The Thinker, have diminished in artistic importance and now seem dated. While alive the sculptor resisted the nomination of revolu­tionary, claiming that he was merely a worker who continued the great traditions of the past by stead­fastly imitating nature. He never forsook naturalism, as was done by the vanguard beginning in the 1880’s and continuing into this century. As a consequence he founded no important movement; on the contrary,