Friday, June 29, 2018

Gustav Vigeland sculpture park in Oslo

In the center of Oslo, Norway, the Vigeland sculpture park exhibits more than 200 impressive nude sculptures, in bronze and granite, as well as wrought iron, made by Gustav Vigeland. Among his preferred themes, the male body, the family, the dragon, the death.

I was lucky to visit this park in May 2018, and therefore am very pleased to share some pictures and information about the key elements and sculptures in this park. Several distinct areas are filled with sculptures, like the bridge, 100 m long, with 58 bronze sculptures, representing human relationships.

Or the gigantic fountain, supported by several men, which express the link between humanity and nature. I also liked the other sculptures, humans almost inside trees, all around the fountain.

The Monolith was modelled by Vigeland, who let stone carvers achieving the sculpture, which took 10 years. The design includes over 100 characters, and is close to 15 meters high. All around the monolith, are other granite sculptures, 36 in total, a very impressive group of man, women, children in various situations.

Several magnificent gates in wrought iron welcome the visitors, as well as other metal sculptures like the sundial, visible either in the park, or inside his museum.

The 'Wheel of life' : as mentioned in the Vigeland park website (see the link in 'Sources' at the end of this post) this sculpture sums up the dramatic theme of the entire park: Man's journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity'.

The nearby Vigeland museum holds maquettes of his projects, as well as his plaster models. Indeed he often designed and modelled his idea in plaster, before asking stone carvers to realize his projects.

Gustav Vigeland, born in 1869, had a schildhood surrounded with craft among his family, and went to Oslo to learn woordcarving. Later, he decided he wanted to be a sculptor, and, once aged 22, travelled to Paris, where he attended sculpture classes in Rodin workshop, went also to Florence, Copenhagen and Berlin.

He also worked for the restoration of the famous Nidaros catheral, in the previous Norwegian capital, Trondheim. He probably adopted one of his themes, the dragon, at that time, being in close contact with medieval art.

Video 1 - by Gay Travellers magazine
Video 2 - by Vigeland museum

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Hendrik Christian Andersen

Hendrik Christian Andersen is a Norwegian/American sculptor, who often depicts muscular characters, and naked males. He got additional fame with his loving relationship with the American writer Henry James.

The love letters that he received from the novellist have been published and testify their beautiful love. He met him in 1899, when aged 27. A loving relationship which will only end when Henry James died in 1916.

Hendrik Christian childhood was spent in Rhode island, as a young immigrant who arrived with his parents. He then moved to Rome at the age of 21. He was convinced that art is one of the best way to inspire perfection, peace and harmony among people, and he sculpted and draw projects with that in mind. He was also a writer and urban planner.

Andersen died in Rome in 1940.

The museum in Rome is actually his previous beautiful home, the Palazzo Mancini, containing his work (close to 400 art pieces). The museum also displays maps, maquettes and planned sculptures for his dream : a 'World Arts city' he imagined for a Greek island with his friend and partner, the poet and aviator Guido Keller. But the project was stopped when Keller died in 1929. Other sources mention the 'World Communication Center', focussed on art, science and sports, to be possibly located in Belgium or Swizerland. Some say it was to be built in the South of Rome. The mystery remains...


Monday, April 16, 2018

Castor & Pollux

Another pair of beautiful young men from the mythology, the Twins Castor & Pollux, has been sculpted by many artists, sometimes more than 2000 years ago.

Like this naked youths group sculpture below, dated 1st century AD which was found in Rome, and recorded in the Ludovisi collection. It then went into the collection of the Queen Christina of Sweden, then kept until 1839 in a Spanish palace (San Ildefonso) before to be displayed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Opposing each other in several aspects, they formed the Gemini (Twins, in Latin) constellation. The myth of Castor & Pollux is more complex, I suggest you read some of the Sources.

A dozen sculpture copies have been done in marble, bronze or even cast iron, by various sculptors, in Germany, UK, France, either identical, using cast from plaster, or sometimes in different size, or even giving themselves some freedom from the original. See the list in the Wikipedia source.

The French copy, seen below, was achieved, after almost 25 years of work, by the sculptor Antoine Coysevox, visible since 1712 in the Château de Versailles, near Paris.

The UK marble copy was sculpted in 1767 by Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823), who went to Rome and may have seen the plaster copy kept at the French Academy there. The sculpture is located in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In Germany, a bronze copy is in Berlin, Charlottenburg, cated by Christoph Heinrich Fischer in 1833.

Still in Germany, Goethe ordered a plaster cast for his house in 1812, and in a letter he sent to a friend, mentioned that 'These two ephebs have always been most pleasing to me'.

And more recently, in 1995, a wonderful sculpted glass by Wolfram Ames has taken place among the private collection of Othmar Rahm in Bonn.

The Rameau opera Castor & Pollux, in his edition of Harmonia Mundi / Les Arts Florissants / William Christie is here illustrated with the Poussin drawing of 1628 made with pen and brown wash.


Andrej Koymaski website
Château de Versailles
Antinoos info

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Geefs brothers and the Evil Genius & Angel of Evil.

The Belgian cathedral 'St Paul' located in Liège is the home of a beautiful young man sculpted in white marble by Guillaume Geefs in 1848.

The sculpture was actually commissionned first to his brother Joseph (1808-1885), also a sculptor. He was asked to create a Lucifer, or Evil Genius. When the statue was set up in the cathedral, in 1843, the male body was judged very, very attractive, probably too much naked and not enough 'Evil' despite the snake near his feet and the bat wings.  See by yourself below.

So 5 years later, his brother Guillaume got the commission for another Lucifer. Joseph's one was removed after one year from the cathedral, and is currently visible in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, in Brussels. Below is the new version of Lucifer, sculpted by Guillaume Geefs.

To avoid the critics made to his brother, he emphasized the symbols of Lucifer, although the nudity is still very much present, with a slightly more muscular body. Guillaume Geefs (1805-1883) was the main sculptor working for Leopold I, selected king for the Belgium nation founded in 1830.

Photo E Huybrechts

Among the symbols and details, you can observe a pair of horns...

A single tear...

A broken sceptre ...

A chained foot, and an biten apple. 

Joseph Geefs

Guillaume Geefs
Egyptomusee blog