Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins


[Image: Panel with Striding Lion, Babylon, Processional Way, Neo-Babylonian period, reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, 605–562 BC, Ceramic, glaze, 97.2 x  227.3 x 12 cm (38 1⁄4 x 89 1⁄2 x 4 3⁄4 in.), New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 31.13.1, Fletcher Fund, 1931]

This catalogue is for an exhibition of Mesopotamian artefacts planned for 18 March-27 July 2020 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, touring from the Louvre, Lens. The majority of the items in the selection are from the Louvre collection.

Within the territory of northern Iraq and Syria, between the Euphrates and Tigris, the great cities of Ur, Babylon and Nineveh were founded and the Uruk, Jemdet Nasr, Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian and Hellenistic periods (among others) succeeded one another between 3900 BC and 642 AD. The centres of population began close to the Persian Gulf and slowly moved northward, due to increasing salinity of the marshes. The Persian era ended with defeat by Alexander the Great and the burning of Persepolis. The Seleucid dynasty ruled before the rise of the Parthians then the Sassanians, who vied for control of the Near East with the Byzantine Empire. The fall of the Sassanian Empire to the Muslims ended many of the traditions that are characteristic of Mesopotamian civilisations.

Mesopotamian innovations (according to current knowledge) seem to include irrigation, weaving, moulded bricks, glassware and alcoholic beverages and – it is thought – writing and written laws. (Tablets are illustrated and translated, with one breaking down the mixture of cuneiform and pictogram script. Others are in pure cuneiform.) These were the first agrarian settled civilisations and cities, made possible by commerce and specialised trades. Foreign trade exchanged woollen textiles for perfumes, spices and metals. Bureaucracy developed to manage the construction of large structures and distribution of wages of food or silver. Fields such as astronomy, mathematics, geometry and music were honed in ways that had not been possible before.  History was recorded and the world’s first museum was Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon’s collection of inscriptions and objects, some up to a thousand years old in the first half of the sixth century BC. Inscribed histories, declarations and laws provided precedent and continuity.

The Western scrutiny and collection of Mesopotamian history began in earnest in the 1840s, somewhat later than the fieldwork in Egypt. The French took the lead, bringing back treasures to Paris. Excavations by European teams uncovered Persepolis in the 1930s. In recent decades, Saddam Hussein ordered excavated more and reconstructed the gate of Ishtar at Babylon at full scale to perpetuate the glory of Iraq. A chapter presents conceptions of Sumerian history, including art by John Martin, Degas, Delacroix, Bruegel, Rembrandt and D.W. Griffiths.

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[Image: Seated Statue of Gudea, Sumer, Tello (ancient Girsu), Neo-Sumerian period, Second Dynasty of Lagash, reign of Gudea, ca. 2120 BC, Diorite, 44 x 21.5 x 29.5 cm (17 3⁄8 x 8 1⁄2 x 11 5⁄8 in.), New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 59.2,Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1959]

The 133 exhibits here include statuettes, cuneiform tablets, glazed bricks, seals, stelae, plaques, jewellery, large sculpture and paintings. Metal-plating was used on objects of wood and stone, inlays being used on statuettes. Line engraving, appliqué, repoussé, cloisonné, glazing and stamping were all used as forms of decoration. A rare silver vase used at a temple has a dedication inscription and engraved images of animals. Small stone cylindrical seals with intricate carvings of historical, royal and mythological scenes were rolled over strips of clay to make terracotta bas-reliefs.

While this art does not rise to the level of the masterpieces of Assyrian civilisation – although there are some artefacts from this era – the selection covers many aspects of Mesopotamian cultures, which permits us to consider Assyrian art that we are familiar as part of a continuum. One of the outstanding images of Assyria – the Lamassu, man-headed, winged bull – appears in a Neo-Sumerian period (c. 2150-2000 BC) chlorite statuette, dating from before the Assyrian era. The stylised patterned depictions of hair, fur, water and drapery is one of the most remarkable and effective devices of Assyrian art. Another aspect is the use of profile in murals. The utilisation of moulds allowed the mass production of glazed bricks which were used to make multiple roaring lions which lined walls.

The most striking art works are statues of Prince Gudea – in dark stone carved in the round, showing the prince in a turban or cap. The musculature of the larger standing piece (no. 107) (and to a lesser degree in the others) is well observed and hints at an appreciation of realistic anatomy in Akkadian art. The schematic and rounded statues of rulers of the Neo-Sumerian and Akkadian eras will recall for many viewers the art of Egypt, however, the breadth and ambition of both the Egyptians and Assyrians eclipse these pieces.

The Mesopotamian cultures were polytheistic, without central codification; set religious practices were apparently not enforced by the state. The chapter on religion exposes how different Mesopotamian approaches to religion were to the religions that replaced them. The gods were considered fallible, inconstant and even mortal; that is reflected in the iconography, which shows the gods as only differentiated from royalty by attributes. Royalty lived in palaces and gods lived in temples. Visages in busts are relatable and human. Nudity is common in the art of all stages of Mesopotamian civilisations; even sexual acts were depicted. Wall paintings rarely survived. The remaining pieces are crude in comparison to contemporary relief carving of the time.

The catalogue outlines the development of the societies, providing up to date information, some derived from technological discoveries. Computer visualisations present aerial-viewpoint reconstructions of cities. The catalogue includes an index and extensive bibliography. Expert commentaries give us an overview of the subject.

Ariane Thomas, Timothy Potts (eds.), Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins, J. Paul Getty Museum, April 2020, hardback, 236pp, fully illus., £50, ISBN 978 1 60606 649 2

(c) 2020 Alexander Adams

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Memories of Degas

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Memories of Degas brings together in one affordable, small volume two short memoirs of Edgar Degas (1834-1917).

George Moore (1852-1933) was an Irish writer and well-known figure in the bohemian art circles of Paris, London and Dublin. He met leading artists and artists; he was painted by Manet. Moore’s memoir was published in The Burlington Magazine in 1890. When it was republished after Degas’s death, it included a new introduction, which sadly does not add much. Moore evocatively described Degas’s studio. “There are neither Turkey carpets nor Japanese screens […] Only at the further end, where the artist works, is there daylight. In the perennial gloom and dust the vast canvases of his youth are piled up in formidable barricades. Great wheels belonging to lithographic presses – lithography was for a time one of Degas’s avocations – suggest a printing-office. There is much decaying sculpture – dancing-girls modelled in red wax, some dressed in muslin skirts, strange dolls – dolls if you will, but dolls modelled by a man of genius.”

Degas was angered by Moore’s indiscretion regarding his private life, resulting in him refusing to directly communicate with Moore for the rest of his life. (“I forgot Degas’s warning he would never speak to anyone who wrote about him.”) On the first occasion, Degas was flattered and amused by Moore’s depiction of Degas in his novel Confessions of a Young Man (1888). When Moore’s 1890 article about Degas, the artist was less forgiving. Moore’s comments about his family finances were transgressions upon the artist’s control of his self-image. Only later did Degas admit there was a possibility of them meeting again but by then the friendship had lapsed irreparably.

We learn Degas deep respect for (and attachment to) Manet and his adulation of Ingres. (Degas was a fanatical art collector and bought art by Ingres. When his financial situation altered, he had to force himself to slow down his buying.) He also damns Bastien-Lepage as “the Bouguereau of the modern movement”. Moore writes of Degas’s technical flexibility and his changing materials throughout the development of a single picture.

The Munich-born British artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) is a critical link between Degas and the British art world. Sickert was not only Degas’s closest British supporter and fellow artist, he was – through his highly regarded art criticism – Degas’s leading public advocate in Great Britain. Sickert could explain Degas’s originality and defend him from derision as a painter of decadence or incompetence. Sickert was an extremely gifted painter who instinctively realised how radical Degas’s art was.

In his 1918 article, Sickert explains he met the master in 1883 through a letter of introduction from Whistler. Sickert spoke fluent French and spent a considerable period of his life in France, principally Dieppe and Paris. In 1885, the pair spent time together over a summer in Dieppe. Sickert appeared in a group-portrait pastel, drawn by Degas during that summer. They met again frequently in Paris, with the younger man visiting him in his studio and attending exhibitions together, including the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. Among the quotes is the famous “On donne l’idée du vrai avec le faux.” (One gives the effect of truth through falsehood.) Both Moore and Sickert remember Degas saying he wanted to present the female nude as if she were seen through a keyhole.

Anna Gruetzner provides a short informative introduction, discussing the relationships between the two writers and their subject. The illustrations are numerous and appropriate, conveniently illustrating the texts, which comprise valuable primary sources on Degas.

George Moore, Walter Sickert, Anna Gruetzner (Introduction), Memories of Degas, Pallas Athene, 2020, paperback, 112pp, fully col. illus., £9.99, ISBN 978 1 843 68 1748 (A version of this is also published by Getty Publications, USA)


© 2020 Alexander Adams

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Vincent’s Books and Letters

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A new edition of the letters of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) guides us through the inner world of one of the world’s great painters. It is only the latest in a series that dates back to the years immediately following the artist’s death. The editions produced under the guidance of Jo Bonger Van Gogh (widow of Theo Van Gogh) are credited with being a major factor in popularising Van Gogh’s art. Evers Yours (2009) was another collection very similar to this one but without any footnotes or illustrations of paintings. The new A Life in Letters is a version with more commentary and extra information. It also includes an index. Van Gogh corresponded primarily with members of his family and fellow artists, with some letters to critics. There were letters to his lovers and the objects of his devotion, but those were all destroyed.

A Life in Letters follows Van Gogh from the age of 27 up to days before his death in the summer of 1890. The majority of the letters are to his younger brother Theo, who was more settled and focussed than Vincent. Theo made a career in art dealing, following in the footsteps of his uncle. (Vincent also tried this but found himself to be incompatible with the niceties and deference expected of picture dealers.) The pair confided in each other and Vincent came to rely on Theo for a regular allowance after the death of their father.

The year 1880 was a critical one for Vincent. At this point his increasing involvement in art – he had always drawn and taken an interest in fine art – became central in his life. The failure of his previous vocation of being a missionary among the working class had led him from helping the poor directly to portraying the poor and thereby promoting reform through greater understanding and empathy with miners, weavers and peat cutters. His first works as an aspiring artist were depictions of workers, drawn in charcoal. He soon lavished money on materials and hiring models. His letters form such a careful record of his artistic endeavours and thoughts because he considered Theo a collaborator and also had to justify the use of the expenses and materials that Theo provided. There was genuine love and respect – and more than a little loneliness – that drove his writing but Vincent was additionally working consciously to maintain the good favour of a brother who was also his patron.

One appealing aspect of Vincent’s letters are the illustrations. He was sketch in pencil or ink the compositions of his paintings, something he had seen and a place where he lived. Sometimes the illustrations were more elaborate. In his letter of 31 July 1882, Vincent drew a pollarded willow in a gloomy landscape using ink and watercolour. The letter illustrations are included as part of the page in facsimile form, which shows how the drawings were integrated into the text. For Vincent, speech, writing and image-making were interchangeable.

Vincent’s frequent moves act as a form of punctuation in his biography. There were periods in various places in the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Paris, South France and Auvers-sur-Oise, where he died. Short editorial introductions explain the biographical circumstances during the period in question. The notes at the end explain some obscure references in the letters. Under the colour plates are extracts of the letters relating specifically to the paintings.

The move to Arles sparked a flood of art in a new quasi-Impressionist manner that came to be called Post-Impressionist. He wrote rapturously about the south, the quality of the light and the clothing of the locals. Included in this collection are letter to Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, discussing a plan to set up an artists’ commune in Arles at the Yellow House. Gauguin came but Vincent and he quarrelled over art and domestic matters. Vincent’s breakdown in a psychotic episode which caused him to cut off his ear led to him being confined to a mental asylum in St Rémy. His letters from the asylum are the most affecting and vivid as he describes his suffering and his dwindling hopes for a full recovery. The move north to Auvers-sur-Oise did not save him.

This is a fine edition of one of the great documents of Western art – somewhat more approachable than the other editions – and is warmly recommended to every reader.

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Vincent’s Books: Van Gogh and the Writers Who Inspired Him is Mariella Guzzoni’s study of Vincent as a reader and the way his responses to books shaped his outlook. Central was the Bible. Vincent had an ambivalent relationship with Christianity, no doubt in part influenced by his turbulent relationship with his father, who was a pastor. While Vincent was unstinting in his admiration for the example and teaching of Christ, he was temperamentally set against the Church – as he saw it. Perhaps it was his tendency towards activities that the Church taught as sinful – sex outside of marriage and drinking – and his passionate attachment to the physical sensual world that drove him into conflict with conventional religion. He remembered many Biblical passages by heart (he had a good memory) and considered de Kempis’s Imitation of Christ a touchstone for living a Godly life.

He was a constant reader and frequently recommended books to his brother, at the beginning mainly religious texts and later modern novels. The 1885 painting of an open Bible next to a copy of the 1884 yellow-jacketed edition Zola’s La joie de vivre (1874) presents a contrast in the might and authority of Christianity and a description of modern life. Beyond the obviousness of the symbolism, this painting is a biographical sketch of the artist. There are other oil paintings of still-lifes including books; many of these books can be identified and Guzzoni links these books with Vincent’s written comments in letters. She explains what moved Vincent about the books and authors, quoting the books and providing synopses.

Vincent frequently moved between discussion of art and literature, treating them as comparable forms of description and expression. Favourite illustrators were Herkomer, Doré and Fildes. Vincent encountered many paintings in the form of the reproduction prints. This is particularly true of the compositions of J.-F. Millet, some included in Sensier’s 1881 biography of the “painter of peasants”. Millet’s depictions of rural workers and their families were the art that was closest to Vincent’s heart. While in the asylum in St-Rémy, Vincent painted Millet’s scenes. Guzzoni discusses Vincent’s project to sell Japanese woodcuts and how he may have learned about the art form through a book by Louis Gonse.

Vincent’s favourite authors included Dickens, Zola, Daudet, Maupassant, Hugo, Michelet, Shakespeare and the de Goncourt brothers. Guzzoni has tracked down copies of the books that Vincent mentioned and sought the editions he read. These are reproduced in her book. This book presents illustrations that Vincent followed. An illustration from Alphonse Daudet’s Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885) inspired Vincent’s Artist on the Road to Tarascon (1888). Vincent visited the town of Tarascon specifically because of Dadet’s novels to draw and painted a coach there that reminded him of the stories.

Vincent’s Books covers all aspects of Vincent as a reader, book owner and maker of art featuring books and readers. The author guides readers through these aspects with a deft touch and thorough knowledge. This will become an essential book for anyone seeking detailed understanding of Vincent Van Gogh’s art and thought.


Mariella Guzzoni, Vincent’s Books: Van Gogh and the Writers Who Inspired Him, Thames & Hudson, 2020, hardback, 232pp, fully col. illus., £19.95, ISBN 978 0 500 09412 9

Vincent van Gogh, Nienke Bakker, Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten (eds.), Vincent van Gogh: A Life in Letters, Thames & Hudson/Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2020, hardback, 432pp, 85 illus., £30, ISBN 978 0 500 09424 2


© 2020 Alexander Adams

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Impressionist Sculpture

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How does Impressionism – a style that exploited the materiality of oil paint, the optical characteristic of broken brushwork, colour harmony and contrast – translate into sculpture, which is generally monochrome? How can a style so dependent on qualities of flatness be translated into three dimensions? How can art that depends on delicacy of touch and the impression of fleetingness find any sort of analogy in solid objects cast in metal? There has always been an idea that the very heart of Impressionist technique and priorities make it essentially difficult to translate into solid plastic matter. The reliance on spatial ambiguity presented a particular problem to artists working in a concrete medium.

A recent exhibition explored this paradox. En Passant: Impressionism in Sculpture was an exhibition held at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. The exhibition is reviewed from the catalogue. The artists covered in detail are Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Medardo Rosso (1858-1928), Paolo Troubetzkoy (1866-1938) and Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916).

The subjects of landscapes, theatre scenes, shops and café interiors lent themselves to descriptions of space as much as of objects. How could these subjects be adapted to solid sculpture modelled in the round. The lighting of sculpture was also – aside from photography sessions and the controlled environment of an exhibition – out of the hands of sculptors. Lighting can reveal the great depth and subtlety of a sculpture; insensitive lighting renders a sculpture illegible.

What is the definition of sculptural Impressionism? Is it defined by the new subjects of art, the style, loose finish, concentration on fleeting motion, a break with tradition (anti-academicism), use of new materials, execution en plein air or in front of the motif, lack of preparation to fix the finished work before it was started or some other measure?

The independent group’s exhibitions at the studio of photographer Nadar, on Boulevard des Capuchines, Paris – which would become known as the Impressionist exhibitions – included sculpture. Seventeen sculptures would be exhibited in the eight Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. The works were by Auguste-Louis-Marie Ottin (1811-1890), whose works were not Impressionist in any meaningful sense, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and Degas. Gauguin’s pieces were varied: traditional marble busts, carved wooden reliefs and an adapted wooden statuette with a waxen head. The relief of a child combing her hair and the wood-wax bust of his son Clovis are the most innovative of the pieces. The former could be considered Impressionist due to the handling. Gauguin’s work received some critical praise.

The catalogue for the 1880 announced a statue by Degas, but it did not appear and the case remained empty. It was announced again in 1881 and was late. When it did appear, it caused a furore. Modelled in reddish wax, the statue was a below-life-size representation of a dancer in real clothes: Little Dancer at the age of Fourteen (1878-9/1881), pigmented beeswax, clay, human hair, cotton tutu, silk ribbon, linen slippers, wooden base, 99 cm high. This could be said to be the first Impressionist sculpture: it was a modern subject, created in front of the source; the artist deployed modern materials; the finish was rougher than usual; it had a realist’s engagement with the subject, not an idealistic approach.

The debut of the Little Dancer provoked a powerful reaction in 1881 – most of it negative. Critics found the piece shocking. It was too lifelike; in its glass case, it was more of a carnival sideshow waxwork than a sculpture fit for a display of fine art; it was ugly; it violated so many rules of decorum that it was nothing more than a provocation. Parisians were used to seeing ballet dancers at a distance in theatrical lighting, not close up. The reality (as refracted through Degas’s sculpture) was coarse and ungainly. There was palpable class snobbery about the responses. In an age when phrenology and physiognomy were treated as quasi-science, it was thought that one could tell a person’s character from the shape of their skull and their appearance. Everything about the subject shouted to the urbane Parisian that she was part of the underclass and that her presence in the gallery was an unwelcome intrusion of a sordid reality.

There were kind words from some critics. Huysmans wrote, the Little Dancer was “the only truly modern attempt at sculpture.” However, Degas never exhibited sculpture again.


[Image: Edgar Degas, Grand Arabesque, Third Time (First Version), c. 1885-1890. Photo © Ken Adlard]

The piece was not a one off. He made sculptures from the 1860s onwards, though it seems the early pieces no longer exist. Degas would build armatures of wire and wood then model statuettes of nudes (dancers and bathers) and horses using unconventional combinations of material: pastiline, clay, plaster, corks, coloured beeswax and other materials. The figurines were often fairly roughly finished; limbs would crack and fall off. When the estate assessed the contents of Degas’s house following his death in 1917, around 150 statuettes were found, many crumbled to dust and fragments. About half were rescued and repaired, with 72 being editioned in bronze.

Whether or not Degas’s decision not to exhibit other sculptures was due to the public mauling his debut had instigated, we cannot know. The artist had an ambivalent attitude towards his sculpture. He spent a lot of time on the art form over decades, he made certain pieces more permanent by casting them in plaster and displayed some in his dining room. At the same time, he never cast anything in bronze, never exhibited anything after the Little Dancer and (according to memoirs of acquaintances) he claimed he was glad that the pieces would crumble.

By the summer of 1886 a new name was added to the Impressionist group: Italian sculptor, Medardo Rosso, who exhibited his work at the Paris Salon. Medardo Rosso was an Italian sculptor from Milan. He specialised in busts and heads, though he sometimes added backgrounds – something he developed from his work on grave monuments. In the absence of public access to Degas’s sculptural work – aside from one piece – Rosso came to be seen as the Impressionist sculptor even though he never exhibited at the Impressionist displays. Rosso’s output was original and influential. A radical departure was use of wax as a finished medium. Wax is very delicate and subject to damage in high temperatures. It is commonly used in the modelling and casting processes but it had been considered too fragile to be a permanent medium. (Rosso cast a coloured wax outer layer around a plaster core.) Rosso also cast work in bronze, mainly of statuettes. Rosso’s sculpture found echoes in the art of Antoine Bourdelle and Bourdelle’s student Alberto Giacometti. Rosso was close to Eugène Carrière, who worked in a tenebrist style in print and paint. Carrière was later the neighbour of Bourdelle. Carrière was also in regular communication with Rodin. Rosso developed a rivalry with Rodin; as Rodin became ever more famous, so Rosso accused him of stealing his ideas.

Rosso’s output was very limited, confined to about 50 original works in 20 years is meagre. For the last 20 years he made no original work, only casting making new casts of old works. Rosso lived in Paris for 1889 but failed to capitalise on his art’s brilliance until 1902. He then achieved some acclaim but once the Cubist craze took over Paris in 1910, Rosso’s minor star was eclipsed except in Italy, where he moved during World War I. Regrettably, Rosso secrecy and mistrust means we do not have much written material by or about him during his heyday.

Rosso used photography very effectively to control the viewing experience of his art, favouring electric light. His use of coloured wax to mimic qualities of stone, flesh and wood gives the same design different implications. Rosso is considered an Impressionist for several reasons. Firstly, his subjects are modern and taken from everyday life, including street scenes. Secondly, his surfaces imitate the effect of veils, shadow, blurring, movement and speckled highlights. Thirdly, the quality of the finish is deliberately rough – very rough in places – that defies the standards of academic sculpture. From a distance, Rosso’s pieces seem to be hunks of unworked material. Only when approached closer and examined do they reveal their figurative forms. Thus Rosso’s sculptures are the optical inversions of Impressionist paintings. Impressionist paintings appear realistic from a distance and become increasingly abstract close up; Rosso’s sculptures appear abstract from a distance and become increasingly realistic close up. Finally, his use of the mise en scene or tableau introduces a sensation of space and indicates a context for the figure. Some of his pieces verge on the abstract. (For further discussion of Rosso see my review here.)

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[Image: Auguste Rodin, The Head of John the Baptist, 1877/78. Photo © Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe]

Rodin is often seen in connection with the older sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, collaborator Camille Claudel or viewed as a founder of Modernist sculptor – particularly in the light of his sawing up of plaster casts of his pieces. So realistic was the early Age of Bronze figure (1875-7) that Rodin was accused of passing off a life-cast as a modelled sculpture – a very modern tactic, but one which Rodin vigorously disputed. Rodin’s work sometimes remained unfinished, which gave it an affinity with Impressionist practice. The case for Rodin as an Impressionist is more tangential than with the others. Rodin’s radical approach to the Burghers of Calais (1884-9) was compared to that of Monet, whom he exhibited beside once in 1889.

Paolo Troubetzkoy was born in Italy, son of a Russian diplomat. He approached his portrait busts without using preparatory sketches of modelli. His working methods and aesthetic preferences produced bronze busts that showed evidence of their process of creation, with areas showing lesser worked areas along with highly finished areas – akin to a range of focus. He could be seen as a member of the Cosmopolitan Realist movement/tendency, which encompassed Anders Zorn, John Singer Sargent, Joaquín Sorolla, Giovanni Boldini and others.

Rembrandt Bugatti is now as celebrated as any animalier artist. His small bronze statues of animals (domestic, agricultural and exotic) are justly treasured. The catalogue associates the Italian Bugatti with German Impressionism (Corinth and others). The Nineteenth Century saw the rise of animal art – Landseer, Bonheur, Barye and others – and Bugatti is the end of the classic period. His short working life coincides with the termination of realism and figurative styles as qualities of the avant garde. His bronzes combine naturalism, movement and a lively finish, characterised by a dappled pattern of highlights, giving the impression of movement.

Other sculptors who could be considered potential Impressionist sculptors are listed: Ernesto Bazzaro, Antoine Bourdelle, Ferruccio Crespi, Honoré Daumier, Leonardo Bistolfi and others. (More discussion of Daumier’s sculpture would have been welcome.) There is a section on the display of Impressionist sculpture and another on the way photographs were created and received (with the photographs becoming Pictorialist works of art). The catalogue includes many photographs, drawings and paintings which relate to the sculptures or images related to subjects of sculptures. Often, the sculptural treatment is palpable in the drawings. Rosso’s drawings and photographs will be new to some, though they have been widely published in recent books. Degas’s output is so large that there are always new drawings to encounter. This is an excellent survey of the problems of classification and the shared aesthetics of a set of advanced sculptors working in the 1880-1930 period. Highly recommended.

Alexander Eiling, Eva Mongi-Vollmer (eds.), En Passant: Impressionism in Sculpture, Prestel/Städel Museum (distr. Prestel), 2020, hardback, 360pp, 335 col. illus., $60/£45, ISBN 978 3 7913 5961 8

Video guide of the exhibition installation here.

© 2020 Alexander Adams

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