Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Nearly every turn-of-the-twentieth-century sculptor of western themes, whether an animal specialist or not, at some point modeled the bison, the largest North American mammal. Whether poised or active, static or frenetic, the bison appears as the principle subject in six sculptures in The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925.
Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014
When viewing Solon Hannibal Borglum's Lassoing Wild Horses in the exhibition The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925, visitors have the opportunity to walk around the sculpture and examine it from multiple angles. As you approach the work in the gallery, you see two riders and their horses in profile (the view featured in the still photograph above), as they work together to capture and tame a group of wild horses—the gritty, day-to-day work of the American cowboy. Yet the narrative drama and technical complexity of this sculpture unfolds as you move around it. Walking counterclockwise, you find yourself in the path of the charging horses, looking directly into their protruding eyes. You can see the concentration and determination on the face of the upper rider, and as you continue around the sculpture, you discover that his horse is suspended in midair, with all four legs off the ground as he gallops forward. Also visible from this angle is the coiled rope at the rider's side, which he holds in anticipation of lassoing in his catch. As you come full circle and stand behind the horses, you can observe Borglum's attention to animal musculature, and experience the strain of the lower rider, who clutches the back of his saddle to maintain his mount.
Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
In 1897, artist Solon Hannibal Borglum moved to Paris to study sculpture at the Académie Julian. Born in Utah Territory in 1868, Borglum had worked as a rancher in Nebraska before pursuing a career in art in the early 1890s. While abroad, he cultivated his identity as a "cowboy artist," capitalizing on the widespread popularity of the American West in France.
Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
James Earle Fraser's End of the Trail is one of the most iconic works featured in The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925. First modeled in 1894, the sculpture is based on Fraser's experiences growing up in Dakota Territory; as he wrote in his memoirs, "as a boy, I remembered an old Dakota trapper saying, 'The Indians will someday be pushed into the Pacific Ocean.'" The artist later said that, "the idea occurred to me of making an Indian which represented his race reaching the end of the trail, at the edge of the Pacific." In 1915, Fraser displayed a monumental plaster version of the work at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, earning popular acclaim and a gold medal.
Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Designed by architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, New York's Central Park was built between 1858 and 1873. Encompassing 843 acres of meadows, gardens, lakes, bridges, and walking paths, Central Park is the most popular city park in America, receiving approximately forty million visitors each year. Stretching from 59th Street to 110th Street, the park is an urban oasis, providing New Yorkers and tourists alike with a picturesque escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. It also offers unexpected encounters with the American West.
Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The self-proclaimed "Sculptor in Buckskin," Alexander Phimister Proctor (1860–1950) was born in Ontario, Canada, and raised in Denver, Colorado. At the age of twenty-five, he moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League, and he later trained in Paris at both the Académie Julien and the Académie Colarossi. Proctor is best known for his sculptures of American Indians, cowboys, and wildlife carried out in a sophisticated, French Beaux-Arts style. Inspired by his experiences as an avid hunter and outdoorsman, he often approached animal subjects from a scientific perspective, undertaking dissections and studying specimens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
In the mid-nineteenth century, the American West was a popular subject for artists working in a variety of media, from painters and illustrators to photographers and printmakers. At that time, images of western buttes and bison, cowboys and American Indians were widely disseminated by the popular press, captivating national and international audiences. These works familiarized the public with the facts and fictions of the West, helping to lay the foundation for the flourishing of western-themed bronze sculpture at the turn of the twentieth century.
Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Born in Waterloo, New York, in 1825, Randolph Rogers studied in Florence before establishing a studio in Rome in 1851, as many American sculptors did in the mid-nineteenth century. Although Rogers specialized in literary and ideal subjects most often carved in Italian marble, he completed at least four compositions featuring American Indians, including The Last Arrow. Cast in Rome in 1880, this dramatic equestrian group depicts two American Indians: a wounded figure, tomahawk in hand, has fallen beneath the rearing horse of his fellow warrior, who precariously turns to aim his drawn bow and arrow at an unseen enemy. The gash on the chest of the fallen man suggests that his wound is from an arrow, and, thus, the result of intertribal combat.
Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
For more than three thousand years, artists have cast sculptures in bronze—a metal alloy composed of copper with smaller amounts of tin, zinc, and lead. Walking through the Met's galleries, you will find remarkable examples of bronze sculpture from ancient Greece and Rome, Asia, Mesopotamia, and Africa. Yet you might be surprised to learn that the technology for casting fine arts bronze was not introduced in the United States until the late 1840s. Early American sculptors worked primarily in marble, plaster, and wood, or sent their works overseas to be cast in bronze at European foundries. However, beginning in the 1850s, professional bronze foundries were established in cities across the Northeast, from Boston to Washington, D.C., later spreading west to Chicago and beyond. The development of America's bronze casting industry freed artists from their dependence upon European foundries, and by the 1880s bronze had surpassed marble as the preferred medium of American sculptors.
Posted: Tuesday, December 24, 2013
When designing an exhibition installation, each stage in the planning process requires careful consideration. Decisions are made to best express the show's intellectual objectives and showcase the objects, yet practical concerns and personal preferences also come into play. To better understand how and why such choices are made, I sat down with Michael Lapthorn, Exhibition Design Manager in the Met's Design department, to discuss his work on The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925. Michael collaborated closely with curator Thayer Tolles to translate the exhibition's narrative into three-dimensional reality.