Critics’ Picks

View of “Thomas Schütte: Frauen,” 2013.

View of “Thomas Schütte: Frauen,” 2013.


Thomas Schütte

Sara Hildén Art Museum
Laiturikatu 13
February 9–May 12, 2013

Thomas Schütte’s first solo exhibition in the Nordic countries includes eighteen monumental steel, bronze, and aluminum sculptures from his 1999–2011 “Frauen” series. Displayed on heavy steel tables, they draw not only on the tradition of twentieth-century figurative sculpture—marks of artists as diverse as Aristide Maillol to Henry Moore are alive in these robust works—but also on the history of female representation in general. While the sculptures demonstrate Schütte’s brilliant sense of scale and materials, they are more than exercises in stout bodies, with forms so simplified they almost seem universal.

Indeed, the most consistent stylistic source for his sculptures seems to be the idealized female figure of European Neoclassicism, which experienced a small but notable revival during the 1920s. This is an influence that can also later be seen in the heroic realism embraced by Fascist dictators of the ’30s and ’40s, which is of particular interest to this writer as traces of an almost inexplicable brutality are embedded within Schütte’s clean, stoic forms. By violently cutting, bending, melting, and compressing the figures into almost unrecognizable forms, he reaches beyond mere surface or style. Based on the dozens of small clay figurines that the artist uses as sketches, the sculptures display an almost explosive power, reinforced by their large scale and ponderous materiality.