malfray

Sculpture of Art Deco

Sculpture of the Art Deco period was mainly designed to decorate office buildings, public squares, and private salons. It was almost always representational, usually of heroic or allegorical figures related to the purpose of the building. Themes were usually chosen by the patron, and abstract sculpture for decoration was extremely rare. It was frequently attached to facade of buildings, particularly over the entrance.

Allegorical sculptures of dance and music by Antoine Bourdelle were the essential decorative feature of the earliest Art Deco landmark in Paris, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, in 1912. Aristide Maillol reinvented the classical ideal for his statue of the River (1939), now held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Paris City Museum of Modern Art, and the esplanade in front of the Palais de Chaillot, facing the Eiffel Tower, was crowded with new statuary by Charles Malfray, Henry Arnold, and many others.

In the United States, many European sculptors trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, came to work; they included Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore Lincoln Memorial. Other American sculptors, including Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, had studied with Auguste Rodin in Paris. The 1929 stock market crash largely destroyed the market for monumental sculpture, but one grand project remained; the new Rockefeller Center. The American sculptors Lee Lawrie and Paul Manship designed heroic allegorical figures for facade and plaza. In San Francisco, Ralph Stackpole provided sculpture for the facade of the new San Francisco Stock Exchange building.

One of the best known and certainly the largest Art Deco sculpture is the Christ the Redeemer by the French sculptor Paul Landowski, completed between 1922 and 1931, located on a mountain top overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. François Pompon was a pioneer of modern stylized sculpture. He was not fully recognized for his artistic accomplishments until the age of 67 at the Salon d'Automne of 1922 with the work “Ours blanc”, also known as “The White Bear”, now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

One genre of the sculpture was called “the Chryselephantine statuette”, named for a style of ancient Greek temple statues made of gold and ivory. One of the best-known Art Deco salon sculptors was the Romanian-born Demétre Chiparus, who produced colourful small sculptures of dancers. Other notable salon sculptors included Ferdinand Preiss, Josef Lorenzl, Alexander Kelety, Dorothea Charol and Gustav Schmidtcassel.

Parallel with these more neoclassical sculptors, more avant-garde and abstract sculptors were at work in Paris and New York. The most prominent were Constantin Brâncuși, Joseph Csaky, Alexander Archipenko, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Gustave Miklos, Jean Lambert-Rucki, Jan et Joël Martel, Chana Orloff, and Pablo Gargallo.