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Article

Aurélie Verdier

(b Saïda, Algeria, 1953).

French painter, sculptor, photographer, film maker, writer and installation artist of Algerian birth. Born to Spanish parents, he was much affected by North African as well as Southern European culture. He trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre. Despite a pervasive and diverse use of media, Alberola often stressed the coexistence of his different artistic practices as leading to painting alone. His paintings relied heavily on evocative narratives, at once personal and ‘historical’. Alberola conceived of his role as a storyteller, on the model of African oral cultures. Convinced that narratives could not be renewed, he argued that a painter’s main task was to reactivate his work through contact with his pictorial heritage. The main points of reference for his paintings of the early 1980s were Velázquez, Manet or Matisse, whose works he quoted in a personal way. In the early 1980s he undertook a series of paintings inspired by mythological subjects, which he combined with his own history as the principal subject-matter of his work. The biblical story of Susannah and the Elders as well as the Greek myth of Actaeon provided his most enduring subjects, both referring to the act of looking as taboo, as in ...

Article

Ian M. E. Shaw

Ancient Egyptian art style that takes its name from Amarna, (Tell) el-, the site of the capital city during the reigns of Akhenaten (reg c. 1353–c. 1336 bc) and Smenkhkare (reg c. 1335–c. 1332 bc). Amarna-style painting and sculpture were characterized by a move away from the traditional idealism of Egyptian art towards a greater realism and artistic freedom. This new sense of vigour and naturalism is most apparent in surviving fragments of paintings from the walls and floors of palaces (Cairo, Egyp. Mus., and Oxford, Ashmolean; see Egypt, ancient §X 2.). The statuary and reliefs, mainly from el-Amarna, Thebes and Hermopolis Magna, represent the royal family and their subjects in a style that was initially grotesque and often crude, as the artists struggled to come to terms with the new approach (see Egypt, ancient §IX 3., (viii)). However, they eventually reached a high degree of sophistication and beauty, exemplified by the painted limestone bust of Queen ...

Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

Article

Bek  

R. Krauss

[Bak]

(fl c. 1340 bc). Egyptian sculptor. Bek’s career as Overseer of Works at the Red Mountain and Overseer of Sculptors coincided with the reign of Akhenaten (reg c. 1353–c. 1336 bc). Numerous fragments of statuary excavated at el-Amarna (the site of Akhenaten’s capital city) can be attributed to Bek’s workshop, making him—like his contemporary Thutmose—one of the few ancient Egyptian artists with whom particular pieces can be associated.

A rock relief at Aswan depicts Akhenaten as a living person, if larger than life, together with the sculptor and his father Men (also an Overseer of Sculptors), in the act of adoring a colossal statue of Amenophis III (reg c. 1390–c. 1353 bc). While Men too adores the statue, Bek greets King Akhenaten. The associated text assigns Bek responsibility for ‘very great monuments’ in the ‘Great Sun Temple’ at el-Amarna. It also describes him as an ‘apprentice whom his majesty himself taught’, a phrase that is often taken to imply the direct, personal involvement of Akhenaten in the formulation of the so-called ...

Article

Article

Lynne Cooke

(b Kheredine, nr Carthage, Tunisia, May 1, 1934).

British sculptor. A leading figure among the group of young British sculptors known as the New Generation who came to critical prominence in the mid-1960s, he read modern languages at Cambridge (1955–7) before turning seriously to sculpture. After a postgraduate year at St Martin’s School of Art in London from 1957 to 1958 and a year as assistant to Henry Moore, King began teaching at St Martin’s with Anthony Caro and Eduardo Paolozzi, both of whom influenced the semi-figurative Brutalist sculpture, which he was then making in clay and plaster. During a trip to Greece in 1960 he discovered, from the example of Greek architecture, that there could be an art that was, as he saw it, ‘of’ nature without resembling nature. The next year, on a visit to Documenta 2 in Kassel, he was struck by the contrast between the mannered clichés of contemporary European sculpture, with its eviscerated tortured forms, and the large-scale ambition and optimism of American Abstract Expressionist painting. The recent shift in Caro’s thinking about sculpture, far more than his actual work, further reinforced the radical change that then took place in King’s aesthetic. Works such as ...

Article

Sergey Kuznetsov

(b Pupastvere, nr Tartu, Nov 6, 1883; d Moscow, Oct 14, 1935).

Estonian sculptor. His monumental ‘Egyptian’ style was influenced by the work of Amandus Adamson. He himself made granite a national Estonian material and was an influence on the art of Anton Starkopf. In 1902–5, Jaan Koort attended the workshop of Matvey Chizhov at the Baron Stieglitz Institute of Technical Drawing in St Petersburg. As a result of the Russian Revolution of 1905, he was the first of the Estonians to leave for Paris, where he spent ten years and studied under A. Mercier. He studied Classical art at the Louvre and developed a special interest in Egyptian art. After returning to Estonia, he became good friends with Konrad Mägi, Nikolay Triik and Kristjan Raud. His first major work was a portrait in basalt of his wife (1916; Tallinn, A. Mus.). This work unites naturalism with the fictionalization of reality in the Neo-classical spirit of Auguste Rodin. From the 1920s Koort was influenced by the German Expressionism of Wilhelm Lemburg, as shown by ...

Article

Joan Marter

(b Alexandria, Egypt, May 4, 1913; d Easthampton, NY, Dec 30, 2003).

American sculptor. Lassaw’s parents were Russian, but he spent his childhood in Egypt, where he attended a French lycée. In 1921 he immigrated with his family to New York, where he began his artistic training with traditional clay modelling at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and in 1927 at the Clay Club. In 1931–2 he attended evening classes at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. After modelling clay figures, in 1933 he turned to abstract sculpture, and was among the first American sculptors to do so in the 1930s. Early open-space constructions such as Sculpture in Steel (1938; New York, Whitney) combine biomorphic elements with Constructivist methods. The leaflike elements suspended from a metal bar seem indebted to Alberto Giacometti’s Surrealist sculptures of the 1930s.

Lassaw studied the welded constructions of Julio González and Pablo Picasso, which were illustrated in French periodicals, and he was attracted to their openwork compositions in industrial metals. While Lassaw’s earliest constructions were made of reinforced plaster on pipe and wire armatures, by ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

[Mukhtār, Maḥmūd; Moukhtar, Mahmoud]

(b Tanyra, May 10, 1891; d Cairo, March 27, 1934).

Egyptian sculptor. He studied at the School of Fine Arts, Cairo, and after graduating was sent in 1911 by the founder of the School, Prince Yusuf Kamal, to study sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Although Mukhtar was at ease in France, and regularly exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français, his aim increasingly was to search for an Egyptian identity in art. In order to re-establish an Egyptian style in monumental sculpture he developed a ‘neo-pharaonic’ style, and became the first Egyptian artist to use granite since Ancient Egyptian times. His massive pink granite statue Egyptian Awakening (1919–28), the most official of his works, was placed at the gateway to Cairo University. It shows a sphinx about to rise, and a woman unveiling.

During the 1920s Mukhtar became an influential figure in modern Egyptian art, and prominent in the group La Chimère, founded in 1927, which included the painters Raghib Ayyad (...

Article

Obelisk  

Erik Iversen

[Gr.: ‘little spit’]

Square or rectangular shaft, usually monolithic, with tapering sides and a pyramidal apex, first developed in Egypt in the 3rd millennium bc but also popular in Europe in Roman times, the Renaissance and the 19th century.

The Egyptian name for the obelisk was tekhen, from a verb meaning ‘pierce’, while its apex, clearly considered as a distinct part, was known as ben or benben. The interpretation of this term is controversial: according to one theory, it derived from the verb ben, which originally meant ‘shine’, ‘radiate’ or ‘reflect’. Thus, like the capstone of a pyramid, the function of the apex would have been to reflect or absorb the rays of the sun, charging the obelisk with solar energy and reviving the person whose name was inscribed on its shaft. In the case of the truncated obelisks placed in sun temples, such as that at Abu Ghurab, this pyramidion would guarantee the physical presence of the sun god in his sanctuary; in this context, it is significant that, in ancient representations of obelisks, the sun disc is often seen resting on or emerging from the apex....

Article

E. Finkenstaedt

Carved ceremonial palette of ancient Egypt that derived from the functional palettes used for grinding eye paint from c. 6000 to c. 3000 bc (see Egypt, ancient, §XVI, 13). As the green paint, derived from malachite, came to be associated with Horus, the god of kingship, palettes came to be regarded as appropriate votive offerings and were suitably decorated. Like their functional predecessors, ceremonial palettes were made of greywacke or schist, materials found in the Wadi Hammamat region. A transitional stage between the functional and the ceremonial types is represented by such artefacts as a rhomboid palette surmounted by figures of birds and ornamented with a hunter and three ostriches in raised relief (Manchester, C.A.G., 5476) and an ovoid palette carved with the head of a cow, possibly representing the goddess Hathor, flanked by stars (Cairo, Egyp. Mus., 34173). These are followed by a number of palettes shaped in the outline form of opposed pairs of animals (dogs, antelopes, ibexes, oryxes and goats). The best known of these are the ...

Article

Susan Kart

Susan Kart

Term that emerged in Francophone Africa in the early 1990s to define a series of contemporary art, artisanal, and craft practices in which artists laid claim to abandoned spaces and/or abandoned (found object) materials. Récupération does not translate well into English, but in a fine art context can loosely be explained as the retooling of materials and spaces from the natural and man-made environments to produce new objects and installations with cultural, political, and aesthetic implications.

One of the first documentarians of the movement was art historian Abdou Sylla. He positioned Senegalese artists who were practicing récupération (which he called ‘assemblage’ and ‘installation’) in opposition to the recycling operations by those he called ‘baay jagal’, a Wolof term for a person who collects trash to re-use or sell. Sylla’s distinction was necessary in order to situate the found object works of récupération artists in Africa against the craft practices of making shoes out of car tires, or toys out of soft-drink cans and electrical wire....

Article

Stephen K. Scher

(b Tunisia, Nov 24, 1901; d Lisbon, Sept 15, 1979).

Italian medallist and sculptor. He was trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Palermo (1918–19), and in Rome, at the Accademia di Belle Arti (1920–25) and at the Scuola d’Arte della Medaglia (1920–23). He taught sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Palermo from 1938 and was often honoured for his accomplishments. For a long period he worked in the USA, where he had individual exhibitions in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Chicago. His work was always included in any important exhibition of medals both in Italy and abroad and is to be found in Italian museums and private collections. The designs of his medals were often based on V-shaped compositions. The modelling is broad, the relief fairly high, and the surfaces range from highly finished to rough. It is evident that Sgarlata often drew inspiration from his Quattrocento predecessors, although his pieces are generally of a very large size, sometimes exceeding 200 mm: for example a medal depicting a man attacking a boar (...

Article

Eve D’Ambra

[Silene]

Roman villa in Libya. The élite of the great city of Leptis Magna built villas along the Tripolitanian coast, and the Villa Sileen, near the village of Khums(Qums) is an excellent example of this type of domestic architecture in North Africa. Discovered in 1974, the villa was inhabited in the 2nd century ...

Article

Sphinx  

F. J. E. Boddens-Hosang and Carole d’Albiac

Type of statue and art form, first found in the early 3rd millennium bc in Egypt and the Ancient Near East, in the form of a mythical animal usually with a human head (see fig.). The sphinx (Gr.: ‘strangler’) could be male or female, and the female version was often shown with breasts. Lion sphinxes were the most numerous, but there were also many examples in the form of bulls or horses. Occasionally they were depicted with various other attributes such as wings, bulls’ horns or snakes’ tails. Throughout Egypt and the Near East the sphinx was seen as a guardian; its role diversified in the ancient Greek world, where it often took on a more sinister aspect.

In Egypt the earliest sphinxes appeared c. 2600–c. 2500 bc. They could be ram-headed (criosphinx), hawk-headed (hieracosphinx) or human-headed (androsphinx). Several examples have human hands instead of paws (...

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

R. Krauss

(fl c. 1340 bc).

Egyptian sculptor. Thutmose’s official title was ‘overseer of works’ and, like his contemporary Bek, he is one of the very few Egyptian artists with whom specific works of art can be associated. His name and titles occur in a single inscription (on a horse’s blinker), found on the site of an extensive estate, comprising various ateliers and quarters for craftsmen as well as the owner’s house, at Amarna, (Tell) el-, the capital city of Akhenaten (reg c. 1353–c. 1336 bc). Thutmose’s ownership of a blinker implies that he possessed horses and a chariot, items commensurate with a social status considerably higher than usually presumed for Egyptian craftsmen.

In December 1912 the German excavators of el-Amarna, directed by Ludwig Borchardt, unearthed many pieces of royal and private statuary which had apparently been abandoned in a room of the main building of Thutmose’s estate. Among the finds were the now-famous painted limestone bust of Queen ...

Article

Trophy  

Luca Leoncini

Dedication of the remains of a defeated enemy, usually on or near the battlefield. This custom was practised by the Egyptians and the Sumerians as well as other peoples of the Mediterranean region and the Ancient Near East. Except in the case of some Egyptian and Mesopotamian monuments celebrating important victories, however, it was never accompanied by any special artistic production in these areas. In Greece and Rome, however, the artistic commemoration of a victorious battle became very popular.

The first trophy documented with certainty is Greek: the trophy of the Aiginetans in the Temple of Aphaia, celebrating their victory over Samos (520 bc). Trophies were mentioned with increasing frequency throughout the 5th century bc, but they became less popular in the 4th century bc and the Hellenistic age (323–31 bc). Among some of the Greeks, however, including the Spartans and the Macedonians, the custom of dedicating everything that remained on the battlefield to the gods remained for some time. For the rest of the Greeks the trophy was at once a symbol of victory, an ex-voto and a warning to the enemy. Two types of trophies are known. In the first and more common type the enemy’s arms were suspended from a post or cross, arranged as they had been worn by the soldier. This ‘anthropomorphic trophy’ was commonly connected with the figure of Victory. The second type, the ‘cumulus trophy’, was a stack of arms often placed on a pile of stones; the earliest form of trophy appears to have been a simple cone of stones. The array of enemy arms displayed in the two types symbolized the dedication of the defeated who had worn them to the gods who had given the victory. The first example of Victories connected with trophies was possibly the one on the balustrade of the ...

Article

Daniel E. Mader

(b Cairo, Egypt, Feb 28, 1935).

American sculptor of English origin. He returned with his family to England in 1937 and studied history at Oxford University from 1955 to 1958 and sculpture in London, at the Central School of Art and Design and at St Martin’s School of Art, from 1959 to 1960. Like Phillip King and other British sculptors who took part in the influential exhibition The New Generation: 1965, in his early work he favoured simple geometric shapes and industrial materials such as fibreglass and sheet metal painted in bright colours. The works that he showed in this exhibition, such as Meru II (fabricated steel, 962×2324×410 mm, 1964; London, Tate), which consists of a series of stepped units rounded on the outside and rectilinear on the inside, bear a superficial resemblance to Minimalist work of the same period. In distinction to the work of Americans such as Donald Judd, however, Tucker suggested an organic development of form and even hinted at narrative, rather than proposing basic geometric forms that could be perceived in their entirety almost at a glance. In the 1970s, with works such as ...