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
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
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.