aesthetic sense asserts itself in the consoling power of beauty.
11 October 2010
06 October 2010
She sprawls in the bathtub relaxed, with none of the effortfulness that her creator devoted to making her. But we know differently.
Modern sculpture debuted at the Sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881 when the painter Edgar Degas exhibited his Petite danseuse de quatorz ans (The Little Dancer -Fourteen Years Old). It was a familiar subject but in a new medium for Degas and the critics recoiled in shock at what they perceived as its ugliness and inappropriate realism (the use of fabric and hair)in its creation).
Le Tub (1888) was even more innovative than the little ballet dancer. The incorporation of objets trouvés was a radical departure from conventional 19th century sculpture and its many 20th century progeny include the Cubist collages, Duchamp readymades, Rauschenberg combined paintings and entire movements - Surrealism. and assemblage. Reclining in a real lead basin on a wooden base covered with plaster-soaked rags, is a wax figure surrounded by plaster water.
A feature it shares with Degas' paintings, is its unusual perspective. The bather is partially submerged in a shallow bathtub, so a full view of the figure requires the viewer to look down at the woman in the tub. Viewed from above, the circular tub and square base become a palimpsest of geometric shapes that contrast with the curvilinear forms of human movement.
Degas never intended his sculptures to be exhibited. Three dimensions allowed him to play with a variety of found materials materials: brush handles, matches.fabric, etc. Waxes worked by hand, leave the imprint of the artist's fingers yet, as you can see in The Tub, the result is a surface that shimmers with life and breath.
You may also be interested in this trilogy of bathtub articles:
Bubble Bath, posted 7 May 2008
How To Take A Bath, posted 30 September 2009.
The original version of Le Tub is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the bronze model is at the Norton Simon Art Museum in Pasadena. Other casts are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhage