I hadn’t know much about this artist before visiting the exhibition.
The first room entered was of sculpture and particularly sculptured heads from his very early work at 14 years of age through to late works. They were displayed in rows on plinths, in the centre of the room, chronologically. It was a fabulous way of showing the growth and experimentation that the artist went through to reach the style that is now associated with him. The early heads being very traditional in style, the middle very experimental with a lot of different styles and the final few rows of slim tall heads very similar be constantly being refined. Apparently he was never satisfied with his work.
Room 2 displayed work from the 1920s when the artist was exploring conceptual sculpture. I found some of these fun and some slightly disturbing/surreal. Making little sketches as I stroll around, one of these being of Point to the eye made in 1931. Quiet an odd little sculpture of a figure represented only by a scull like head and rib cage mounted on a pin on a rectangular base with a large bone like rib shape balanced on a pin with the sharp end literally pointing to the eye of the skull.
Another room was filled with decorative objects that he had made in order to earn a living including work that he made during is period of being involved with surrealism.
Room 4 contained some of his larger pieces.
Room 5 contained work he had done whilst visiting his mother during the war in Switzerland. He had been unable to return to France and therefore found he had to work with limited material and space. These sculpture were tiny…..really tiny. Quite beautiful with enough detail for recognition of the human quality but not so much as to be fully descriptive of the shape.
Following on from here were the tall slim figures that everyone associates with this artist. I had not thought much of these when seen in books or online but standing in front of them they hooked me completely. There is something very peaceful about them, and the taller and thinner they became the more I found them fascinating.
The Four Standing Women above at first I interpreted as a family, then it could easily be four trees, there was another with more figures that was entitled The Glade.
I stopped a while to sketch one of The Eight Egyptian Women.
There were few paintings in the exhibition and I was surprised at how dark they were, almost devoid of colour despite being portraits.
This exhibition had only a few and all either of his brother, Diego or his wife. These two subjects he painted and sculpted again and again, not seeing any reason to use different models. At first glance I thought they were drawings. His painting style being very linear, with hundreds of fine brushed lines searching for the shape.
This sculpture is entitled Falling Man. Elongated Limbs, feet and body and tiny head. The artist is quoted in the exhibition notes when talking of these figures “I wanted to hold on to a certain height, and they became narrow…The more I wanted to make them broader, the narrower they got.” They were originally exhibited in 1948 and were thought to be a powerful image of humanity,.. a generation traumatised by war.
Looking at them now …words that came to my mind were.., peaceful, quiet, calm, and gentle, interesting what difference time makes.