Artists by Artists at Stuart Lochhead Sculpture
The modern idea of the artistic genius has its roots in the 19th century, as testified to by the current selling exhibition of sculptural portraits at Stuart Lochhead Sculpture. The works, ranging from bronze busts to marble reliefs, have been gathered together by the gallery’s owner, Stuart Lochhead, working in partnership with the Paris-based dealer Etienne Breton. Lochhead, previously an art dealer for Daniel Katz before starting this gallery on Bury Street next to Christies in 2018, has produced a rewarding show with much to admire.
As implicit in the title, Artists by Artists, the concept behind the exhibition is an original one. The physical presence of some of the most celebrated creative figures of the last few centuries can be viewed here, their features captured by fellow artists paying them the ultimate accolade.
Several, although by no means all, of the works assembled here were created as enduring tributes to either recently departed or, in the case of Jean-Jacques Feuchère’s The Michelangelo Clock (ca. 1849), long-since dead men of creative renown. Standing proudly at the entrance to the show, and undoubtedly a highlight, is the Second Empire sculptor Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse’s marvellously swaggering bronze bust of Eugène Delacroix from 1864. This memorable piece, produced a year after the great Romantic painter’s death, was commissioned by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It provided the focal point for a banquet held in his honour on 5th December 1864, the anniversary of his death, which was attended by the likes of Thèophile Gautier and Manet.
Another French sculptor, Antoine Etex is seen here attempting to correct an injustice he perceived in the authorities allowing the heroicised painter Théodore Géricault to be buried in an unmarked grave. 15 years after the latter’s death at 32, Etex, most famous for his Arc de Triomphe reliefs, made a much-lauded bronze tomb for the great man. The model, exhibited at the gallery, accords the artist a kind of classical nobility as he reclines, palette in hand over a bas-relief rendering of Géricault’s celebrated painting, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19).
There’s more to enjoy in this exhibition, including a bravura patinated plaster portrait by Jean Carriès of the 17th century Dutch painter Frans Hals, he of The Laughing Cavalier fame. Frans Hals with Pointed Beard (1885) shows a spectacularly ruffed man of rosy-faced joviality, an aspect emphasised by the patina’s red and brown tones.
Another distinctive work, this time by the highly regarded, Italian-born Russian Paul Troubetzkoy, also possesses an arresting presence. The sculptor has set out to immortalise the great Auguste Rodin, his former tutor, aspiring to adopt a three-dimensional version of the impressionist style. The viewer has been presented with Troubetzkoy’s two-part studio plaster, clearly intended to be realised in bronze.
British art of the 19th century makes an appearance here in the form of a rather exquisite marble portrait relief of John Everett Millais by the Scot Alexander Munro. The Pre-Raphaelites, of which Millais was a founding member, raised their profiles by depicting each other and this marble relief, exhibited in 1854 at the Royal Academy, certainly succeeds in highlighting, be it in an idealised manner, the famously handsome Millais’s side-view.
At the core of this exhibition lies the artists’ determination to immortalise their fellow artists, many of whom were towering figures of their age. Some were erstwhile tutors, others friends, but all were lives they believed deserved to be remembered. The sheer variety of visions and consummate skill in their realisation ensures a captivating experience for the visitor.
Artists by Artists is at Stuart Lochhead Sculpture from 18th June until 26th July 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.