Gaston Lachaise, “Equestrienne,” 1918, gilt bronze, 10 5/8 x 10 x 4 5/8 inches, George H. Warren

A fascinating new exhibition seeks to investigate for the first time the integral relationships among modernism, classicism, and pop imagery through interwar sculpture. Who are the central players, and where can you see it?

The Portland Museum of Art, Maine, has recently mounted an incredible exhibition that explores the formative sculpture of modernists Gaston Lachaise, Robert Laurent, Elie Nadelman, and William Zorach. Titled “A New American Sculpture, 1914-1945,” the show explores how this cohort of European-born sculptors became important figures of modernism in the United States. Amassed from both public and private collections, this gathering of 60 sculptures and several preparatory drawings “reveals the confluences of sources — from archaism and European avant-garde art to vernacular traditions and American popular culture — that informed these artists’ novel contributions to the history of sculpture,” the museum writes. “[The exhibition] also addresses the remarkable affinities between the oeuvre of four divergent personalities, who redefined sculpture’s expressive potential during the turbulent interbellum period.

Gaston Lachaise, “Standing Woman,” 1912-17, bronze, 72 x 28 x 17 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art
William Zorach, “Mother and Child,” 1922, mahogany, 31 x 12 x 12 1/2 inches, Portland Museum of Art, Maine
Elie Nadelman, “Head of a Woman,” circa 1916-32, bronze, 18 3/4 x 10 x 15 1/2 inches, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester

“Between 1900 and 1914, Lachaise, Laurent, Nadelman, and Zorach each enjoyed formative experiences in Paris amid an exhilarating era of artistic experimentation and fomentation. They witnessed the development of modern sculptural modes informed by divergent currents of classicism, global sources, the energy of science and industry, and nontraditional technical approaches. By the beginning of the first World War, all four artists had settled in the United States, each responding differently to his new home and laying the seeds for what would become their shared, lifelong preoccupation: exploring the communicative power of the human form.”

The exhibition opened on May 26 and will be on view through September 8. To learn more, visit the Portland Museum of Art.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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