With cooler weather I enjoy curling up with a cup of something hot to drink and reading. My favorite books being those on sculpture, I thought that posting book reviews would be fun and enjoyable for those of you who are fellow bibliophiles (especially for anything written on the arts in general and sculpture in particular). Whenever I go to a library or used book store, my first place to look is in the art section where ‘sculpture’ will be. Most of the time, there are not many books on sculpture. If there are, there is the ubiquitous Michelangelo, maybe a Bernini and then all the modern sculptors from the last 50-60 years. However, when I find something really special, it is a treasure indeed!
Such is the case with this book “The Spirit of American Sculpture” written by Adeline Adams in 1923 for the (at that time up and coming) National Sculpture Society. This book gives a brief history of the sculptors of America’s history, starting with the first American sculptor – a woman, Patience Wright, who sculpted before, during and after our Revolution and even did a little espionage on the side while she sculpted in London during the war! The book then goes on to three of America’s great leaders in the art of sculpture: John Quincy Adams Ward, Augustus St Gaudens, and Daniel Chester French (all three are some of my favorite sculptors to study!).
The last sections of the book describe various kinds of sculpture, reliefs, busts, equestrian, garden and ornamental, etc. As I read this book, I underlined meaningful passages, wrote in notes and copied pertinent quotes into my personal book of quotes. Adeline Adams writes “The sculptor’s work means far more than staying in a studio and luring visions into clay or stone or bronze. His business isn’t altogether a wrestling with the angels…The sculptor’s masterpiece must be able to resist the spiritual wear-and-tear of the market place of the world’s opinion. It is no masterpiece unless it can in the end do that. And if, as it stands, the work is a silent influence against superficiality and emptiness, something is gained for American life. Glad sculpture as well as grave sculpture can exert that influence.” Sadly, many of my favorite books are out of print… happily they can usually be easily found on the internet as used books!