Here is how you can schedule your time…

Cezanne: The Diver, 1866-69, graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper (12.7x12.1cm), National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff

Being a bad planner by nature, each time I read some work schedule I am intrigued. Especially when I see how much work it takes to achieve things, since I am borderline Generation Y, that always thinks that one can get perfect in no time without doing too much slogging. Contrary to the Gen Y modus vivendi, in 1860 the author Emile Zola suggested the following schedule to his friend Cezanne for his stay in Paris.

“Here is how you can schedule your time: from 6-11, you’ll go to a studio for life painting: you’ll have lunch and then, from noon to 4 you will copy, either at the Louvre or at the Luxembourg, whatever masterpiece you choose. That will make 9 hours of work; I think that’s enough and that with such a regimen you can’t help but accomplish something.”

Source:

Simms, Matthew: Cezanne’s Watercolors. Between Drawing and Painting. Yale University Press. 2008

 

Hello Flora – or shall I call you Hubris?

While my attempt to make an adequate version of the wonderful Lehmbruck sculpture failed, having rendered some rather flat looking bust instead, I am never shy to attempt the next big thing – usually accompanied by a megalomaniac optimism before I start, that gets successively dampened along the way.

Next I am going to sculpt a version of Rodin’s Flora, a terracotta head of which I found a couple of pictures on Flickr. This is outside the OCA sculpture curriculum, in case you have wondered.

Auguste Rodin: Flora, 1865-70, Terracotta, painted brown, Excluding base: 34.9 x 20.3 x 19.7 cm (image by opacity), bust from Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

Just looking at the picture above again I am sane enough to realise I must be utterly bonkers to try that, given my current skill level. But I read (here) that you have to challenge yourself in order to get better. In fact that same article also said you should do things about 20% harder than you can currently manage. Mind you 20% – not 1020%. But hey… It will be interesting, and I shall be back with pictures.

Research Point: Wilhelm Lehmbruck

Wilhelm Lehmbruck: Bueste der Knieenden/Geneigter Frauenkopf (Bust of the kneeling woman), Paris 1912-1914. reddish clay/terracotta

Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1919) – together with Ernst Barlach – was the foremost expressionist sculptor in German expressionism, which was in full bloom in the first 2 decades of the 20th century. Both artists worked figuratively. Visually Lehmbruck is quite close to Aristide Maillol, whom the artist met when he lived in Paris. But Lehmbruck is less concerned with solidity than with spirituality. His work (just like Barlach’s) is often described as “gothic”. I am not quite sure what that should refer to other than some abstraction of nature and a certain seriousness that all these figures have – lending them grace and almost a religious aura.

Lehmbruck mostly worked with clay models later to be cast in cement/artificial stone (source 1), a material which was used quite extensively after World War I being an inexpensive sculpture material with a matte, granular surface.

Lehmbruck frequently traveled to exhibitions in which his work was represented and thus became familiar with contemporary sculpture. Thus he visits Paris several times before moving there with his family in 1910. He knew the work of Rodin as well as that of Maillol.

2 Lehmbruck sculptures (kneeling woman, youth) as depcited in LIFE magazine from Aug 16, 1948

He said that art is about proportions, about the connection to the earth:

“Ein jedes Kunstwerk muß etwas von den ersten Schöpfungstagen haben, von Erdgeruch, man könnte sagen: etwas Animalisches. Alle Kunst ist Maß. Maß gegen Maß, das ist alles. Die Maße, oder bei Figuren die Proportionen, bestimmen den Eindruck, bestimmen die Wirkung, bestimmen den körperlichen Ausdruck, bestimmen die Linie, die Silhouette und alles. Daher muß eine gute Skulptur wie eine gute Komposition gehandhabt werden, […] das Detail ist das kleine Maß für das große. Der Maler, der die Fläche einteilt, tut nichts anderes als der Bildhauer, der den Umfang seiner Statue als Fläche sieht oder sie einteilt. – Es gibt also keine monumentale, architektonische Kunst ohne Umriß oder ohne Silhouette, und Silhouette ist nichts als Fläche. Voller Intensität, nichts leer, voller Wärme, voller Tiefe!«

Lehmbruck searched for the “eternally human” (“das ewig Menschliche” in German) in his art. So did Barlach. This is something important I feel. In the abstraction lies the beauty of their work. Expressive without being specific. It is about the grand gesture.

Lehmbruck committed suicide age 38.

Sources:

  1. Sculpture and its reproductions. By Anthony Hughes, Erich Ranfft
  2. Lehmbruck’s life and work by the Lehmbruck Museum. In German
  3. MARION BORNSCHEUER (STIFTUNG WILHELM LEHMBRUCK MUSEUM – ZENTRUM INTERNATIONALER SKULPTUR, DUISBURG) Nicht nur physisches, sondern seelisches Material erfassen – zur künstlerischen Verwandtschaft zwischen Lehmbruck und Beuys

Learning from a master: Wilhelm Lehmbruck bust

Attributed to Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1919, German), sculpture, Bust of a kneeling woman, terra cotta, bears inscribed signature "W. Lehmbruck", on custom wooden block base, (size 16.5"h x 13.75"w x 8.25"d (excluding base), 2"h x 16"l x 10"d (base only)

I attempted a copy of a Wilhelm Lehmbruck bust last week. I found a great piece (attributed to him) shown from many sides in an online auction record. This is quite rare for a sculpture, as mostly you get a picture from one side only. However even though I had 5 odd pictures of this sculpture, I thought there was a great deal of information missing for making a copy.

I also became aware that one of the major reasons that sculpture is so much less popular than painting must be the fact that we live in a 2D reproductive world. It is so much easier to take a picture (2D) of a picture (2D) than of a sculpture (3D). So sculptures don’t get endlessly reproduced in 2D. While everyone will have seen at least a picture of van Goghs picture of the sunflowers, sculptures are not shared like that. They only “live” (are experienced, seen) in their physical location, and by the very nature of all real locations their radius and contact points to people are limited.

Regarding my copy attempt: I build up the bust with thick clay coils and some slabs. I stuffed the inside with newspaper to stop the bust from collapsing. I made the head separately and waited with its attachment until both head and neck were firm enough, probably a wee bit too late as the head could not really be mended at that stage anymore other than attaching little bulges of clay here and there.

I noticed that Lehmbruck’s head has a more radical angle than mine, which is not tilted quite enough. I couldn’t figure out how he made the eye section, so my eyes turned out quite Asian in the end. I noticed that several times since moving to Asia that my faces become increasingly Asian. That’s quite weird.

Improvement areas:

  • a more tilted head
  • take the eyes from similar Lehmbruck sculpture (see below), where I can see that section better, the eyelids are very exaggerated
  • In general I feel my bust lacks expressive character. In the original she looks like she is about to smile quietly. My girl is a bit grumpy around the mouth
  • the hair in the original is less like a hat, he seems to have been applied the clay very freely
  • the face in total seems more oval, while mine is more full in the chin section, therefore appearing more masculine

I wish I could see the original in person!

Wilhelm Lehmbruck: Bueste der Knieenden

%d bloggers like this: