Tuesday, July 06, 2021

What is it with statues / sculptures of women?

I knew I didn't like the statue of Princess Diana - as in there was something not right about the face. However, I was unprepared for the scathing criticism which has emerged from all quarters - from here in London to the other side of the world in Australia!

I'm left wondering why it is that statues / sculptures of women cause such intense reaction?


I'm thinking in particular of the recent debacle over the artwork by Maggi Hambling relating to Mary Wollstonecraft - and the very many critical comments that attracted.

I started trying to remember a sculpture of a woman what I liked - and decided that for the most part, I'm right behind Henry Moore whose sculptures are abstracted shapes and yet very popular!

This post has two sections:

  • what is a sculpture and what is a statue 
  • criticism - critical and otherwise of the Diana Sculpture.


What is a sculpture as opposed to a statue

The Tate defines "Sculpture" as 

Three-dimensional art made by one of four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, construction
and does not define "Statue" 

Sculpture | Britannica

Britannica defines "Sculpture" as

Sculpture, an artistic form in which hard or plastic materials are worked into three-dimensional art objects. The designs may be embodied in freestanding objects, in reliefs on surfaces, or in environments ranging from tableaux to contexts that envelop the spectator. An enormous variety of media may be used, including clay, wax, stone, metal, fabric, glass, wood, plaster, rubber, and random “found” objects. Materials may be carved, modeled, molded, cast, wrought, welded, sewn, assembled, or otherwise shaped and combined.
and also states

The scope of the term was much wider in the second half of the 20th century than it had been only two or three decades before, and in the fluid state of the visual arts in the 21st century nobody can predict what its future extensions are likely to be.

BUT says nothing about a statue.

Sculpture vs Statue | Modern Sculpture Artists

This article provides two helpful definitions.
The statue definition, “a likeness (as of a person or animal) sculptured, modeled, or cast in a solid substance (such as marble, bronze, or wax). Generally speaking a statue is a three dimensional representation of a human, animal or in some cases an imaginary figure such a deity or mythological creature. The term statue tends to imply a fairly representational (realistic) approach although some degree of sylisation is not uncommon, but something highly abstract is less likely to be described as a statue.

Sculpture definition
, a 3 dimensional creative object which can be made of almost any material and does not have to be life-like as a statue must be. A sculpture is a work of art, and it is produced by carving stone or wood or any other material for that matter. It is a piece of art executed with creativity. 
On the basis of these definitions, Henry Moore's Old Flo is a sculpture while what's just been unveiled in Kensington Palace Gardens should be referred to as a statue since it is obviously intended to convey a likeness - whether it does, or not.

What’s the Difference Between a Sculpture and a Statue? | Art Recovery Technologies argues that a piece can be both.

Criticism - critical and otherwise of the Diana Sculpture

The sculpture / statue is by Ian Rank-Broadley. It was commissioned in 2017 and unveiled on what would have been her 60th birthday on July 1st 2021. It was intended to reflect the diversity and universaility of some of the themes she supported.

Princess Diana Kensington Palace Gardens, London by Alasdair Massie
(some rights reserved)

These are articles which discuss the statue / sculpture of Diana

Lots of on my Facebook page on an article and the above tweet can be summarised

  • the face is just plain wrong
  • the proportions of the children made them look like mini adults rather than children
  • she looks far too stiff and masculine - both in face and general stature
  • the colour is drab 
  • what a missed opportunity!

I realised afterwards that for me, there was also something very odd about children being shoeless and yet otherwise being clothed as if clothing is not a problem. 

My recollection is she also tended to dress less formally if she knew she was going to be meeting children - so the dress (for what is obviously a formal photo shoot - judging by the reference photos) is just plain wrong as well.

All in all, a catalogue of "not quite right" irritations within a sculpture intended to be 'realistic'.


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