Summaries of Connoisseur
Melanie Rolfe – Fish by Constantin Brancusi
Rolfe begins by describing the material that was used by the artistto create the first Fish. A white marble made the first one.Two other Fish were made with bronze. However, all the Fishthat the artist created were mounted on a reflective white metaldisc. Rolfe takes note of the differences between the two individualbronzes.1Of particular interest is the fact that the creator wanted to testthe limits of possible dimensions, in which case, a horizontal formwas more preferred. Rolfe notes that the creator of the Fishwas accustomed to simplicity and clarity. 2Moreover,he asserts that the fight was created to look deceptive to theaudience, as such, giving it a unique touch of simplicity, whichcharacterized the creator. This conclusion is derived from the factthat at first sight, the Fish is the simplest art form thatthe creator had come cultivated. Rolfe makes a straight comparison ofthe Fish to its aquatic environment. By choosing the marbleand glass to create the Fish’s resting place, the creatorwas reflecting the pieces’ aquatic home. Rolfe also comments aboutthe artwork’s texture. In his opinion, the creator used highlypolished bronze to give a surface that would not lead to a texturaldistortion. The same is observed in Brancusi’s photograph of theFish. This photograph taken in one of his studios shows thathe was exploiting the quality of the material that he used to compilethe work. Rolfe also takes note of the exploitation of light to boostthe pieces’ quality. The creator placed the Fish in a waythat light would bounce off it and streak down its sides. Theintention of this artistic creativity is to create an impression ofthe Fish swimming through water, which is satisfactorilyachieved. According to Rolfe, Brancusi was inspired by one of hisfriends to create a mirror-like piece, which he did in thisparticular art piece. Rolfe also takes note of the colors thatBrancusi chose to create the Fish. The highly polished bronzesare pale yellow, which is a result of the copper-tin alloy modifiedwith some other elements. Similarly, Rolfe comments on the method ofcasting that was used to create the Fish. According to him, itis quite impossible to learn the method of casting from X-rayexaminations, as the highly finished surface gives no hint about thesolid cast underneath. However, he does mention that Brancusi mayhave gone for a casting technique that avoided few hidden airbubbles, which would have spoilt the perfect surface of the piece.
Alexandra Parigoris, The Crouching Figure
Parigoris,while setting the tone for the analysis, gives a brief history of thepiece The Road to Damascus. He notes that the piece marks akey point in the sculptors’ career, as it was one of the bestpieces, which he carved out of stone. According to Parigoris, themodern day stone works to raise a concern about the articulation ofadvanced art circles. This has span through time since the first mostnotable stone carvings were created. As such, he feels like it isnecessary to reassess the traditional claim that stone carvings aresymbols of a deep sculptural language, which unites some renownedartists in the genre. These artists include Gaugin, Cezanne, andDerain. While analyzing the sculpture, Paragoris seems to be makingdeep comparisons with other pieces that are related to it. Forinstance, he mentions Rodin’s Kiss. This piece is one thatcan be said to be a brilliant execution of the marble groups. TheKiss was hailed during its days as one that containedillusionist depictions of textures. Paragoris claims that the texturein the The Crouching Figure has an effect that is rendered bymodern day talented studio artists.3A unique element of the crouching figure is that it has an honest andlittle-sophisticated feeling. Moreover, Paragoris comments on thetechnicality of the piece. According to his independent analysis, heviews the piece as a technical challenge, which is associated withworking directly on marble. As such, he describes the artists as awell-trained craftsman. To cement this claim, he makes a comparisonto some other pieces created by the same artists, such as the Headsof Children and Sleep. Paragoris also further describesthe technicality issues that are associated with the material thatthe creator used in this piece. According to him, Brancusi did notconsider the technical subtleties of working with stone, as he didwith others. The other materials that the creator worked withincluded wood, which he used to create the piece Kiss, andmarble, which he used to create the piece Fish. Paragoris alsodraws upon the creator’s cultural influence on the piece. He saysthat his work was subject to competitive and contradictorytheoretical standpoints. Given that he participates in the modernartistic environment, he did not bother referring to past eras inthis particular piece. He, therefore, attempted to give the piecesome meaning by giving the audience liberty to judge itindependently. According to Paragoris, Brancusi did however notdisregard the dominant culture of the century’s symbolism. This wasin recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that the piece reflectsan attempt to fuse with the modern day (during the piece’ creation)experience. As such, despite the fact that this period experienced anexplosion of talent, especially on cultural artwork, Paragorisinterprets the piece’ experience as quite reductive, and yet still,sophisticated.
Both authors demonstrate a skillful mastery of connoisseurship. Thisis because they have described some of the key elements in sculptureanalysis, such as the history of the creator and the piece, thematerial that is used, texture, culture and other important elements.Intrinsically, they demonstrate an emphasis on close looking andcommitment to learning from the object itself, without depending onexternal influence to make judgments. Such skills, thus, demonstratethe key element of object knowledge in connoisseurship.4By doing this, the authors have separated the technical element ofattribution and managed to explain the essence of the pieces througha keenly judgmental eye.
However,there is a little distinction in the focus of the two authors. Rolfe,while describing the Fish, paid more attention to the materialand texture. At the same time, he was particularly interested in thetextural intention of the creator while making the piece. This is whyhe focuses on describing the material that was used to create thepiece. However, Paragoris is more interested in the social andcultural elements of the Crouching Figure. In doing so, hedescribes the historical context of the creation, compares it withothers created during that time, and comments on the creator’scultural association with the piece and time of its creation.However, both authors describe the material and texture of thepieces, which is key in analytic connoisseurship.
While describing the piece Fish, Melanie Rolfe begins bypaying attention to the material. According to him, the white marbleand bronze are used primarily to demonstrate the aquatic environmentof Fish.5To achieve the effect, the creator positioned the parts of thesculpture to maximize on light reflection, which would produce theimpression of Fish in water. At the same time, Rolfe commentson the color and texture that were used in creating the piece. On theother hand, Parigoris puts emphasis on the historical context of thepiece The Crouching Figure.6He compares the artwork to others of the same age and comments onthe creator’s relationship with other artist. Similarly, on alighter note, however, Paragoris comments on the material and textureof the artwork. He also makes a comparison of the intentions of thecreator while designing the Fish. Both artists skillfullyanalyze and describe the artworks, however, with varying degree ofattention on various elements, such as material, texture, historicalcontext and artistic impressions.
Whilethe two authors demonstrate skill in analyzing the artworks, theyhave different approaches. For instance, Rolfe focuses on thematerial and texture of the piece. While at it, he describes thecreator’s intention and ability to use the materials to achieveartistic impressions. On the other hand, Paragoris puts emphasis onthe social and cultural aspects of analysis. Regardless, both authorscan be described both as skilled connoisseurs and as art historians.This is because they have demonstrated advanced skills inconnoisseurship and can give detailed insights into works of arts andtheir creators. This is because the visual analyses presented by thetwo authors have the capacity to connect the artists, their works,and the audience satisfactorily.
Heumann, Jackie. Materials Matter: The Conservation of ModernSculpture, (Tate Gallery Publication, 1999).
Smith, Ralph. The Sense of Art: A Study in Aesthetic Education,(New York, Routledge, 2014).
1 Jackie Heumann, Materials Matter: The Conservation of Modern Sculpture, (Tate Gallery Publication, 1999), p.27.
3 Ibid, 101.
4 Ralph Smith, The Sense of Art: A Study in Aesthetic Education, (New York, Routledge, 2014), p.10.