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Contents of Case 31: 12 objects

Sculpture case, large 20th century works

The American Sculpture Collection
The Brooklyn Museum’s collection offers a lively survey of sculptural practice in North America and the Spanish American colonies over three centuries, in a variety of materials (predominantly marble and bronze) and a medley of styles. Most of the Museum’s American sculpture is now in the Visible Storage Study Center and the adjacent American Identities galleries.

From the Neoclassical marble females of Hiram Powers and Richard Greenough to Gaston Lachaise’s modernist bronze goddess, the full-length human figure has been a central preoccupation of many sculptors represented in the collection. For Spanish colonial carvers, it took the form of the devotional figure in wood, often embellished with painted surfaces and sometimes with more precious materials like ivory and silver. In contrast, twentieth-century modernist carvers, like Chaim Gross, preferred to leave the wooden surface of the figure in a natural state.

Portrait busts in stone, bronze, and even wood are among the most common sculptural forms here, with origins in antiquity. Whether conceived as private commemoration or as public icon, the portrait bust, like the painted portrait, served as the mainstay of many artists’ careers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, executed in a spectrum of styles from realism to modernism. Most are about life-size, adding to their expressive power to commit a mortal human face to the permanence of bronze or stone.

Reliefs, another ancient form of sculpture in which figures project from a background, bring the two-dimensional illusionism of painting to the enduring medium of bronze or marble. Among the many sculptors represented in the collection, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Olin Levi Warner, and Helen Farnsworth Mears excelled at exploiting this pictorial quality, using delicate drawing and subtle modeling in their bronze portrait plaques. Some reliefs here are in the form of round or oval medallions, which recalled the coins and cameos of antiquity.

Brooklyn’s collection is rich in the work of American “animaliers,” later nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sculptors who specialized in bronze animal sculptures, usually executed on a small scale. These works portray highly naturalistic, usually wild, animals, often in vigorous action or combat. Once a model was created, usually in clay, multiple bronze casts could be made for a mass market eager to decorate domestic interiors. Some of these bronzes, like the small version of Alexander Phimister Proctor’s great pumas flanking the Ninth Street gate to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, are reduced-scale models of large outdoor sculptures.

Visible Storage: Case 31, Shelf A (Sculpture)
07.418 Sarah Malcolm Freeborn
On the Heights 1893

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86.279 Chaim Gross
Untitled 1945, cast 1976

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L30.96 Nena de Brennecke
Female Torso before 1930

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2008.1 Robert Laurent
Plant Form ca. 1920-1923

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Visible Storage: Case 31, Shelf B (Sculpture)
40.728 Enrico Glicenstein
The Player 1935-1940

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43.146 Bernard Walsh
Miner's Son Before 1940

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63.105 Georg J. Lober
Innocence ca. 1930

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Visible Storage: Case 31, Shelf C (Sculpture)
35.951 Vuk Vuchinich
The Archer 1933

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58.182 Oscar Miestchaninoff
Young Girl with Bouquet 1924

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L34.119 Ahron Ben-Shmuel
Walt Whitman n.d.

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1992.52.4 Saul Baizerman
The Gate n.d.

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Visible Storage: Case 31, Shelf D (Sculpture)
30.1106 Phidias Alexandre
Mexican Madonna 1925

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