Exhibition | Perfect Poses?

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on March 5, 2019

Now on view at the Glyptotek:

Perfect Poses?
Museo Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, 26 October 2018 — 4 February 2019
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 1 March — 16 June 2019

The exhibition Perfect Poses? is a sculptural odyssey through the period between the French Revolution of 1789 and the beginning of the First World War in 1914—a period also known as ‘the long 19th century’. French sculpture of the 19th century was a deeply felt passion both with Carl Jacobsen, founder of the Glyptotek, and Calouste Gulbenkian, founder of the museum in Lisbon. The exhibition Perfect Poses? presents works of both collectors from a new angle—working from the poses of the sculptures. Thus the exhibition is at once a unique encounter between two collections and an updated look at a period in sculptural history that has long languished in the shadow of 20th-century modern art.

Jean-Antoine Houdon, ‘Apollo’, 1790, bronze (Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, inv. 552).

The human body has been the sculptor’s favourite motif from as far back as antiquity right up to the 20th century when sculpture also became abstract and experimental in relation to motif and form. It is specifically the body in sculpture which has, since antiquity, been the pivotal point for the feelings and narratives the artists have wanted to express concerning the great universal themes of human life. The art history of sculpture can, therefore, also be seen and related through the way the artists through the various ages have let body language, movement, and, not least, pose speak about such themes as love, life, and death.

The exhibition’s focus on the poses of sculpture emphasises the body language of the works whereby their universal messages, common to all, become clearer to us through the pose. This quality in figurative sculpture was something that lay behind the Glyptotek’s founder, Carl Jacobsen’s fascination with both ancient classical sculpture and the figurative French sculpture of his own era. He believed that the three-dimensional representation of the human body is the way to come closest to expressing the basic human condition in art in an intuitive, understandable manner. Figurative sculpture is something which can be experienced and understood without having an art historical background. Here we rediscover his passion—with a focus on the significance of pose in this context.

This exhibition has been realised through a unique collaboration between the Glyptotek and the Museo Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. The two museums have much in common; each was founded by a passionate collector with a great love for figurative sculpture and its capacity to relate the great human stories. The exhibition is curated in collaboration between Classical Archaeologist Rune Frederiksen, Head of Collections at the Glyptotek, and the art historians of the Gulbenkian.

In Lisbon, the show was entitled Pose and Variations: Sculptures in Paris in the Age of Rodin; more information is available here.

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