Wednesday, 17 July 2013



Masters Gallery Vancouver has received numerous new acquisitions of patinated bronze sculpture by British Columbian artist, Cameron Douglas. Douglas’ sculpture is primarily figural with hints of both linear and curvilinear abstraction. Although Douglas’ work has a distinct and unique flare, the artist himself has noted historical and modern sculptors as part of his inspiration. In particular he noted the motivation he found in the work of cubist sculptors such as Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Laurens and Ossip Zadkine.

I have realized that so far all of the blogs here have been about two-dimensional art, such as paintings, prints or photographs. Therefore, I thought it might be nice to make mention of some three-dimensional art in light of our recent acquisitions. Since bronze is Douglas’ medium of choice, and is a metal that is always refreshingly cool to the touch, I thought it would be a suitable choice to consider on this hot summer day.

Almost since its discovery, bronze has been manipulated for tools and decoration. The Greeks and Romans sculpted with bronze. Perhaps laughably, the ‘Capitoline Wolf’ instantly springs to mind when I think of bronze in combination with Ancient Roman art. This famously iconic mythological bronze sculpture depicts a rather awkward and expressionless she-wolf being suckled by two rambunctious looking twin infants, Romulus and Remus (the same who reputedly went on to found the city of Rome) The she-wolf bronze has long been attributed to the 5th century B.C. with the two infants being added or replaced in the 15th century. The twins are rendered in the style of the early Italian Renaissance. In recent years, the ancient dating of the piece has been called entirely into question. But no matter, there are plenty of other bronze sculptures from ancient times to prove their popularity.

As mentioned above, Romulus and Remus were an invention of the early Renaissance. In Italy during the 15th century, bronze was an important form of high art. For example, although arguably the most famous high Renaissance sculpture is Michelangelo’s David (1501-1504), there was another significant sculpture of David executed in bronze that pre-dates Michelangelo’s by over half a century (circa 1440).

Moving forward into the 16th century, bronze is a featured medium for famous artists Giovanni Bologna (aka Giambologna) and Benvenuto Cellini. Giambologna’s bronze statue of Mercury is one of the most celebrated works of art of that century, and is copiously copied even to this day. For Cellini, his statue of Perseus is a tour-de-force in bronze. Bronze statues and sculpture for indoors and outdoors were a must have for the European Nobility of this time, particularly in Northern Italy.

Today the bronze sculpture created towards the end of the 18th and into the 19th century is often more closely associated with the decorative arts than with the fine arts. Consequently we deem the creators of bronze sculptures during this period to be further allied with craftsmen than with artists. I often lament that craftsmen have receive far less credit than fine artists in the mainstream history of art. Yet the 18th century produced one exceptional hand at bronze in Luigi Valadier. Valadier had a phenomenal ability to render detail and precision when casting his bronzes, and was a true artist of the medium.

Bronze was still thriving as an art form, or craft, in the 19th century. Like painting, the most popular centre for production had shifted from Italy to France. Most popular French bronze sculpture is often still associated with the decorative arts. Today you are more likely to find 19th century bronze sculpture for sale amongst antiques and furnishings than with fine art. Some 19th century French names of recognized sculptors include Pierre-Jules Mene and Antoine-Louis Barye. They are popular on the market today, and are collectively known as Animaliers for their vastly realistic bronze animals and birds.

When modernism debuted, bronze was not left behind as passé. Some exceptionally creative and foreword thinking sculptors helped to push bronze away from the realm of skilled craftsmen and back into the hands of fine artists. Most modern and avant-garde artistic movements have had a sculptural component, including impressionism and cubism. Impressionist Edgar Degas is known equally for his bronze ballerinas as for his paintings of ballerinas. Auguste Rodin is occasionally associated with impressionism, but receives stand-alone distinction for his mastery of bronze. Rodin’s masterpieces include the Burghers of Calais, The Gates of Hell and The Kiss.

The avant-garde cubist movement also had a sculptural component, with bronze at the forefront. Cubist sculptors created geometrically abstracted three-dimensional forms. Some admired artists include Constantin Brancusi, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Laurens, and Alexander Archipenko.

20th century Canadian art has had its fair share of acclaimed artists working in bronze. Since Suzor-Cote’s time, artists such as Sorel Etrog and William McElcheran have had success on the Canadian art market. Joe Fafard is one of Canada’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. He creates amazing likenesses to farm animals and famous people in bronze with varying colourful patinas.

Bronze has had a consistent presence throughout the history of art: from the Bronze Age to early dynastic China, or from the ancient Greco-Romans passed down through European history, and then ultimately to contemporary art in Canada. Cameron Douglas’ works of art follow this long and honorable tradition of bronze art. In his work we can see the influence of the past (particularly through his interest in cubism) but we can also see his own creativity as he tackles new and engaging subject matter, both lighthearted and serious.

By: Jill Turner

Photo Credits:

1.Capitoline Wolf at Museo Capitolini, Rome from Wikipedia

2. Donatello. David at Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence from Wikipedia

3. Giambologna (Giovanni da Bologna). Mercury at the Louvre from Wikipeida

4. Antoine-Louis Barye. Wolf holding a stag by the Throat at the Brooklyn Museum

5. Edgar Degas. La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans cast 1922 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Wikipedia

6. Auguste Rodin. The Burghers of Calais at the Musee Rodin, Paris from Wikipedia

7. Ossip Zadkine. Orpheus at the Sculpture Museum Park, Germany from Wikipedia

8. Joe Fafard. Diego from Masters Gallery, Vancouver exhibition and sale Farm Animals and Famous Folk

9. Joe Fafard. David Suzuki from Masters Gallery, Vancouver

10. Cameron Douglas. Road Apples patinated bronze, at Masters Gallery, Vancouver

11. Cameron Douglas. Taking Flight, Vancouver patinated bronze, at Masters Gallery, Vancouver

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