BRIEF ON BRONZE SCULPTURE: A Purpose and the Process
by Bonnie Veblen. January 12, 2002
OUR ART HERITAGE
is rich with records of past civilizations.... rulers, wars, loves,
disasters... life captured in various forms for us to bear witness.
These written and graphic images represent, in part, extensions
of an idea of ourselves. The desire to convey the importance of
these ideas caused man to develop the ability to pass feelings and
moods from generation to generation through various means of expression
we refer to as art.
first recorded efforts to communicate were through symbols inscribed
on cave walls. And over time, our curiosity unearthed three-dimensional
forms that give further evidence of early man's concerns. From a
point very early in recorded history, sculpture began carrying forward
part of that responsibility.
of the evocative, even magical, qualities to be found in sculpture,
it has endured as an important medium of expression. It should not
be considered as an adjunct to architecture or a relative of painting,
but rather as an independent, dynamic, and powerful form with which
to present a theme worthy of consideration. Sculpture then, in the
real sense, is more than mere decoration. It has purpose: it speaks
the mind, wisdom and time of peoples related to us.
do not know what caused early man to leave records of his life and
times behind, but we do know that it is through the arts our most
precious values are conveyed past our own generation. This preservation
is no accident. Whether inadvertently compelled or consciously commissioned,
down through the hallowed halls of history artists have strived
to tell us tales of their times. Consequently today, as always,
the patron of the arts has as vital a role to play as the artist
himself in keeping recorded history intact.
stone was the first material used by the sculptor, bronze became
the most prestigious and significant of all mediums. It still is.
Because of its qualifications, many of man's most compelling messages
have been put into bronze. It will survive through most types of
aging and even much determined destruction to carry its message,
often another link of timeless importance, in the continuing chain
of human events.
ability to render a message in any three-dimensional medium is difficult,
costly and time consuming. First the sculptor must come up with
a concept, often suggested by commission through a public source
or inspired by a need in the private sector. Perhaps the theme arises
from the thoughts, feelings and personal convictions of the artist.
Regardless of the initial impetus, it is my belief that the most
significant art expressions have come from what we refer to as the
THE PROCESS OF BRONZE CASTING
physical work now begins, progressing through a series of research,
notes, sketches, and "roughs" in clay. This gleaning activity
can take a tremendous amount of time, encountering many changes
along its course, until a final model (or maquette) of the idea
takes shape. Indeed, often many models result from this process
leading to the final one. If necessary, the chosen maquette is sized
up to the final scale.
complete, the finished model is delivered to a competent foundry
and the proper method for reproducing the specific art piece in
bronze is determined. Details vary greatly according to individual
demands but basically, following an exacting procedure, a polyurethane
mold is created to ensure the original model is duplicated precisely.
This mold is then covered in a hardened material, such as plaster,
copy is then taken from the finished mold, subjected to careful
inspection, then cleaned and prepared for investment by the addition
of a complex arrangement of wax gates, or vents. A ready wax is
a sculpture with a complex series of airways attached. These vents
allow the hot bronze to flow freely during the delicate pouring
individual wax is then invested (sprayed with a material that will
give proper support during the pouring procedure), and put into
a high temperature kiln until the wax is melted out and the investment
heated enough to harden it sufficiently to withstand the shock of
molten bronze without cracking. The investment is now ready for
molten bronze is not simply upending a container of liquid metal
into a crude container. Every niche, every subtle hollow, outline,
indentation and mark of the original must be reached and reproduced
by the dangerously hot metal. If the gates were attached properly,
the resulting casting will be a faithful rendering of the original
maquette, right down to the fingerprints of the artist himself.
This success will only be evident when the investment material is
chipped away and the rough cast revealed.
A successful casting is only another beginning, for then comes the
arduous task of cutting off the gates, filing, grinding, polishing
and smoothing the new casting.
final step is the application of a patina, a surface finish which
is an artificial means of coloring the raw bronze by application
of certain oxides. The natural aging of bronze occurs over many
years, whereas patina chemicals achieve the desired finish quickly
and with control.
you can see, fine art casting is not a matter of "mass production".
Throughout the foundry process the artist of integrity is in constant
touch, often choosing to get his hand into the work to insure accurate
reproduction of his vision. This insures the end result will conform
to standards of the highest value. The rapport between the artist
and the foundry personnel is very important to the quality of reproduction.
From finished model to final casting the sculptor's business requires
not only artistry but also craftsmanship of the highest order. Good
sculpture is no accident.
A BASIS FOR EVALUATION
prospective patron of the arts today enters a confusion of media
hype. Art is sold as a sure investment but a master's signature
on a reproduction has often directed turned the dilettante from
an outstanding piece of original art by an unknown name. A clever
advertising claim might distract from the fact that the workmanship
is poor. Trust in quality workmanship. Ultimately the greatest satisfaction
comes from living with good art one has a hand in preserving for
the long run.
art will evoke a range of responses, each sculpture being is part
of an art form of history. Historically significant art succeeds
in inspiring the viewer, not deluding him. There are good and bad
in all of these and a future historian will select the 'classics'
of the time. Content is important. What does the piece 'say' to
abstract? Figurative art can impressively rendered but without depth,
abstract can have simplicity of design without becoming non-objective.
Good art will always stand alone as easily as it harmonizes with
a wide variety of backgrounds. For example, the powerful figurative
works of Rodin and the classic forms of Greece are as beautiful
in the stark environment of today as in the positions for which
they were originally commissioned. Confidence in one's basic instincts
is the best suit.
in the arts is maintained through proper motivation. If you enjoy
looking at it, it is awakening responses within worth feeling. General
disappointment is being voiced with today's public art, which is
created to meet percentage allocations without considering general
society's needs for representative expression. Work created with
the primary concern to meet minimal budget allowances seldom has
the lasting fulfillment of artistic merit. It is wisest to do nothing
rather than invest in something of immediate satisfaction that won't
have long-term staying quality. Art in any form is so subjective
that one's own feelings are often as important as the expert opinion.
When the initial intellectual exercise is over, trust your heart.
As it is in many areas of life, you are the Ultimate Authority for
your own personal artistic viewpoint... exercise it!
creation of art that will endure requires as much dedication today
as always. The truly talented artist is a historian, the servant
to his/her talent, patron and the era. The serious artist must commit
himself to his work though the education, discipline, skill and
costs encountered does not encourage many to continue in this calling.
The imaginative patron can be a major contributor to achievement
in the arts, with the encouragement and support of reputable artists
an essential key in this process.
It has been wisely said: "Society is not a society without
the arts." We must recognize this important fact and strive
not only to preserve our natural resources but our arts as well
by improving our level of understanding, by thoughtful patronage
and by the support of dedicated, professional workmanship.
art communicates... this we must never forget. But good art fulfills
its promise to be a healthy influence in our daily life and a light
to those in need of inspiration.
this writing has moved you to thought, or you are interested publication
rights, please feel free to write or call with any inquiries to:
P.O. Box 623
Mendocino, California 95460
or click here to send an email...
Rep: Sherry Stambaugh (707) 462-5962
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