Double take: A closer look at American bronze sculpture

1 The two primary processes for making bronzes are sand casting and lost-wax casting. For descriptions of these methods, see Malvina Hoffman, Sculpture Inside and Out (W. W. Norton, New York, 1939), pp. 289-305; and Michael Edward Shapiro, Bronze Casting and American Sculpture, 1850-1900 (University of Delaware Press, Newark, and Associated University Presses, Cranbury, New Jersey, 1985), pp. 16-24, 108-114.  A brief video of the lost-wax process is available on the Victoria and Albert Museum's Web site: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/sculpture/bayes/video_bronze (accessed July 14, 2006).

2 See Michael D. Greenbaum, Icons of the West: Frederic Remington's Sculpture (Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, New York, 1996).

3 See, for instance, Janis Conner, "Cast Comparisons," in Conner et al., Captured Motion: The Sculpture of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (forthcoming, Hohmann Holdings, New York, November 2006); or David B. Dearinger and Thayer Tolles, "Side by Side: American Sculpture," American Art Review, vol. 15 (January-February 2003), pp. 106-113.

4 In 1889 the Paris foundry Siot et Perzinka bought the exclusive rights for a ten-year period to cast and sell the large group with the option to make and sell reductions and enlargements. See Élisabeth Lebon, Dictionnaire des fondeurs de bronze d'art: France, 1890-1950 (Marjon Editions, Perth, Australia, 2003), p. 233. According to Thomas P. Somma, Paul Wayland Bartlett's papers at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., include orders filled between 1888 and 1894 for thirteen 27-inch reductions of the bear tamer and standing bear (an example is in the Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York); and fourteen 17-inch reductions were made during the same time period (an example is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.).

5 The Medallic Art Collection of American Bronzes, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, September 29, 1977, Lot 89.

6 Marks for Tiffany and Company and Theodore B. Starr are found on both European and American bronzes that date from the mid-1890s to the 1910s. These companies entered into agreements with artists (or with foundries that owned the rights to models) to sell their bronzes, which Tiffany or Starr stamped with their names. Usually these are the only marks aside from a signature, but occasionally foundries placed their marks on these bronzes as well.

7 Suzanne Bartlett oversaw casting of her husband's models between about 1926 and about 1929 (although the High Museum's Bear Cub Grooming was presumably made later as a special request). Some were made to preserve models not cast during his lifetime; others were produced to sell for funding to preserve the Paris studio, an effort that ultimately failed. Authors' conversations with Thomas P. Somma, February 6, and July 24, 2006. The one documented lifetime example was cast by the Gruet foundry in Paris and was donated to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in 1923.

8 In a work this small the rule-of-thumb difference of approximately three-sixteenths inch loss per foot for a surmoulage is difficult to measure with accuracy.

9 Active from 1910, Griffoul produced small bronzes for Vonnoh and such contemporaries as Bartlett and Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (1878-1942). The quality of its casts is generally very good. See Julie Alane Aronson, Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872-1955) and Small Bronze Sculpture in America (Ph.D. diss., University of Delaware, 1995, and UMI, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1996), p. 225.

10 Before her marriage to the painter Robert W. Vonnoh (1858-1933) in 1899, the sculptor most often signed her works "Bessie O[nahotema]. Potter."

11 The lack of a date does not alone prove the cast is spurious. We know of at least one legitimate cast of this model without an inscribed date.

12 Of the edition of ninety-nine lifetime bronzes, ninety-three were cast by Gorham and six by the Roman Bronze Works. See Conner et al., Captured Motion, p. 249.

 

 

 

Thank you for signing up.

by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

» View All