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Revival and Invention

Sculpture through its Material Histories

Sébastien Clerbois and Martina Droth

Materials may seem to be sculpture’s most obvious aspect. Traditionally seen as a means to an end, and frequently studied in terms of technical procedures, their intrinsic meaning often remains unquestioned. Yet materials comprise a field rich in meaning, bringing into play a wide range of issues crucial to our understanding of sculpture. This book places materials at the centre of our approach to sculpture, examining their symbolic and aesthetic language, their abstract and philosophical associations, and the ways in which they reveal the political, economic and social contexts of sculptural practice. Spanning a chronology from antiquity through to the end of the nineteenth century, the essays collected in this book uncover material properties as fundamental to artistic intentionality.

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Catherine Chevillot - Nineteenth-Century Sculpteurs and Mouleurs: Developments in Theory and Practice 201

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Catherine Chevillot Nineteenth-Century Sculpteurs and Mouleurs: Developments in Theory and Practice If nineteenth-century sculpture illustrated in a particularly important way the vagaries of taste and their destructive ef fect on the conservation of works of art, plaster casts, by comparison, were the concentrated target of unequalled disdain. This disdain was reinforced by the discrediting of the material itself (plaster being seen as an integral part of the casting process), and of the status of plaster casts (which by the early twentieth century were no longer deemed to have any educational value) (Fig. 9.1). This rejection was somewhat paradoxical, given that the overwhelming majority of origi- nal models in the twentieth century were made from plaster. Over the last 20 years, as the rediscovery of this material has progressed, new research has allowed us to examine afresh the role of the material and the mouleurs (mould-makers) in the artistic process. Even though plaster casts were more frequently used by sculptors than bronze or carved marble – or perhaps precisely for that reason – the techniques of using plaster and plastic materials are still, in many ways, relatively unknown. The same is true of many aspects of the creative pro- cess, such as the relationships between artists and the many trades linked to dif ferent sculptural techniques (plaster manufacturers, plaster merchants, reducers and enlargers, mould-makers and sellers or edition-makers), and how to define the role of the sculptor in the various processes (for exam- ple, whether the sculptor reworks the plaster). Very little information...

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