Bronze Sculptures from the Ingram Collection
Entrepreneur and businessman, Chris Ingram, began collecting modern British art in 2001 and has now amassed well over 300 items – paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints that reflect a sustained period of development in twentieth century British art. In recent years Ingram has ventured into the field of contemporary art, but this exhibition focuses on nineteen sculptures from the 1930s to the 1980s with particular attention to work of the 1950s by some of the most important British artists of the period. Although most pieces in the exhibition are made in bronze, there are two in iron, included to demonstrate the technique of welding that extended the scope of sculpture beyond traditional casting methods.
Changes in western society occasioned by the industrial revolution, two world wars and technological invention have played their part in shaping modernism. Many artists rejected ideologies such as realism and romanticism in favour of more abstract and expressive form. Their subject matter embraced the human condition but without the requirement that the figure should be academically exact, capturing instead the feeling and mood of their subjects – energy, quietude, discomfort, edginess, despair, love.
The way in which these artists rendered human and animal figures varies greatly. There are many degrees of realism; some are impressionistic, leading towards abstraction, whilst others are fully abstract yet still hint at the sense of human form. Some of the sculptures address scale: larger than life, very slightly smaller than life – in which it is invariably difficult to achieve a convincingly assured outcome – and small models that are readily accepted in the way cameos, small photographs or miniature paintings are. Life-sized portraits too may not seem to reflect reality when rendered sculpturally, as the materiality of the medium changes our perception.
Artists often used exaggerated forms in order to communicate ideas; for example, the concepts of speed, poise, balance, determination, reflection or certainty could be found expressed in longer than natural limbs, the turn of a head and stance. Surface treatment might also be used to speak for mood – softness for compliance, sharpness for aggression or agitation, awkwardness for uncertainty.
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