Sculpting Sadness

I have never been particularly interested in sculpture.   I should probably put that differently … I like to look at sculpture but, as a rule, it doesn’t move me.  I can appreciate what an incredible feat it is to bring a work of art out of a huge block of stone or a mass of metal.  I can admire its beauty.   But I don’t believe I’ve ever gone to a gallery to see a sculpture … and when Muri and I play what would you bring home after touring a museum, I’ve never chosen a sculpture.   OK, you could probably twist my arm to get me to take home Michelangelo’s Pieta … or Degas’ Little Dancer of Fourteen Years.   But only if there wasn’t a painting by Renoir or Monet available.   There was one exception, however, an unassuming little piece by a Belgian artist that simply knocked me off my feet.

In 1994, I was in London on business, which gave me an opportunity to tour a number of the city’s wonderful art museums, including the Royal Academy of Arts.  The primary exhibition at the time was titled Impressionism to Symbolism – The Belgian Avant-Garde 1880-1900.  While I found the exhibit interesting, I was familiar with only a few of the artists and the works were darker … perhaps more brooding is a better phrase … than the French Impressionism with which I was familiar.  At one point, I entered a small room featuring Belgian sculptures from the period and in a glass case was George Minne’s Mother mourning her Dead Child.  I was simply stunned.  Though the figures were crudely rendered compared to those of Michelangelo or Degas, they made my heart ache … but I couldn’t take my eyes off them.   Perhaps the primitive style of the figures themselves lets the the mother’s sorrow be the focus of the work.  There were similar, more beautifully sculpted works in the room, but this is the one I remember.  This is the one that touched me more than Mary’s grief in the Pieta.

It’s hard to say that you love something as gut-wrenching as Mother mourning her Dead Child but I will never forget my reaction to it.   I suppose that’s love.  You can see more of Minne’s work here.

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2 Comments on “Sculpting Sadness”


  1. Isn’t it strange what has impact? Thanks for sharing that sculpture – although seeing it on a flat surface instead of in real life – it does relay such emotion.
    Maybe the familiarity and expectations lessens the impact of the famous pieces? Still, there are so many “minor” artists that are so great when you take time to examine them. Great find!

    • oldereyes Says:

      Good point. I do think that when we see a Michealangelo or Rodin, we expect to be blown away and those raised expectations may lead to disappointment.


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