Form is a three dimensional response to volume.

When one talks about the form of an object, that person is referring to the fullness, the three-dimensionality of that object. Thinking in terms of drawing, form is the translation of the characteristics of what is happening between the lines: The inside of an object, the positive spaces, and the negative spaces. Drawing can be broad; it has many things it has to deal with- line, composition, figure/ground relationships, focal point, color, etc. The line work of drawings can be either objective, revealing the physical nature of the object; subjective, revealing the personal attitudes and emotions of the artist, or a combination of the two. Think how personally we know the emotional intensity of Vincent Van Gogh through his treatment of such a mundane object as a little wicker chair. Sculpture too exists on these levels. By nature, sculpture is very specific. It’s very much about forming an object, having three dimensions, existing in space, but, of course, it will also take on the personality and the thoughts of the artist who is crafting the piece. Leonardo Da Vinci attempted to establish that art is a mental activity and a science, searching for objective reality. On the other hand, we know that art is an expressive act, relating directly to the subjective experiences of the artist, springing from an “inner necessity” as Kandinsky pointed out. Searching for the structural form of an object is an intellectual part of the objective processes of seeing. Feeling the emotional form of that object is also an important part of artmaking.


The sculptors represented here at the Norton Simon Museum all have real thought behind their life-long work. Art is never accidental and arbitrary- the great artist is always purposeful and focused. There are undoubtedly two ways of drawing visible things- by using outlines to define them precisely, or by treating the planes and curved surfaces as masses through surface directional lines, values, and tones. The lines are either drawn on a flat plane, as a drawing, or in a three dimensional space, as a sculpture. The way the artist thinks of the object in relation to the space around it is a key decider on his approach to the work. Frank Gehry, the architect for Disney Hall, used sculptural principles when designing this building. Just as any good sculpture, this building activates the space around it


Form and space stand in a complimentary relationship to each other. It is necessary to be aware of the space around an object in order to fully understand and see the object itself. For instance, with a piece of furniture the ins and outs of space-- the negative areas (between the legs, through the arms, etc.) contribute quite strongly to the design sense of the object, something every designer must think about.

The same is true with both drawing and sculpture. The negative space around the form is just as important in many cases to the object itself as it is to the composition of the work. Barbara Hepworth is a sculptor who is as concerned as much about the space around the sculpture as about the sculpture itself. The space can activate the sculpture and visa versa. Isamu Noguchi the same way.


Richard Diebenkorn’s painting of Berkely#24 has also merged the figure/ground relationship. Here you can see that his creative interest in the spatial environment was almost as great as his analytical and inventive attitude toward the objects within his landscape.

If you look at your outstretched hand and stare at your fingers, you will see the intervals of empty space between them. Those shapes of empty space are only visible because your fingers are allowing them to exist. As your fingers move, they change shape as well. The awareness of the visibility of empty space also expands the awareness of the surface of the forms and their relationship to the negative areas around them.

Henry Moore is a master of presenting to the world a human figure that is as conscious of the space that surrounds it as the figure is of itself. His works deal with the negative spaces equally as much as the positive spaces.


If you look at Henry Moore’s drawings, you will see that he is not thinking about human form as being realistic, but rather he is thinking about shapes morphing into a figure by virtue of the “essentialness” of the figure and its relationships with its surrounding space. Negative areas between the legs, for instance, become just as fascinating an area as the shape of the legs themselves.

In Pablo Picasso’s drawing series of “The Bull”, he starts with the idea of the bull as a tangible mass, heavy and real in form and function. He finally progresses to the essential elements of the bull, drawn linearly and designed as its minimal essential lines. Imagining his last bull drawing as a sculpture, helps us understand the artists’ deliberate creation of space to define mass. From the first drawing to the last, Picasso eliminates more and more of the formal, physical, properties of the bull, until he ultimately comes to lines that signify surface and mass and weight.


In much the same way Brancusi with his “Bird in Space” sculpture kept the essentialness of the flight of a bird, eliminating all the extra things that would slow the speed of the sculpture down… Bird in Space embodies Brancusi’s belief that “What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things,” Bird in Space represents the essence of flight. It is the essence of a pure, simple, and perfect linear form. Of course, always included in an artist’s working method is the life he/she imparts on the work. A line can be lyrical, quiet, forceful, and angry. Form also can be emotionally removed, or absolutely loaded with emotion.

In the case of Rodin, his work in the early 20th century took a different path than his academic predecessors- the more academic, impersonal sculptures of the late 18th and 19th century Europe. Rodin’s work cannot be viewed without feeling the internal emotion of his subjects, an idea that opened the way for art to grow and change away from the conventional. His sculptures are contorted, the poses more extreme, the emotions raw. His sculptures are quite forceful and have an interior life of their own.


Compare Clodion’s sculpture of “A Bacchante Supported by Bacchus” to Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais”. Clodion’s work is an anatomical masterpiece, yet nowhere in the gesture of the bodies or in the faces do we get an emotional sense of the characters. Rodin’s work is all about emotional content. From his use of gesture and modeling we feel a very strong sense of emotion in every one of Rodin’s sculptures.

Degas, as well, had a real sense of presence about his work. His sculptures were not meant as a means to themselves, but rather for him, they were three dimensional studies of his subjects he intended to paint. For Degas, gesture and the fullness of form were what he searched for in his sculptures. Rodin took his work a step further in imbuing each work with a life of its own. He would talk about how he would try to catch the pose to be “between” poses, having both of sense of the movement prior and the movement after.

In terms of organic form, Rodin said “when you carve, never see the form in length , but always in thickness. Never consider a surface except as the extremity of a volume, as the point, more or less large, which it directs toward you.” An example of this principle is related when Rodin was watching another sculptor model foliage. He told the sculptor that all his leaves are seen flat, which is why they didn’t look real. Instead, he said, to make some with the tips pointed toward you, so that, in seeing them, one has the sensation of depth.


Rodin said about his figures, “… instead of imagining the different parts of a body as surfaces more or less flat, represent them as projectures of interior volumes. He said “I forced myself to express in each swelling of the torso or of the limbs the efflorescence of a muscle or of a bone which lay deep beneath the skin. And so the truth of my figures, instead of being merely superficial, seems to blossom from within to the outside, like life itself.”

Wilhelm Lehmbruck was an admirer of Rodin and eventually developed a sculptural style his own about the same time as the art deco era was coming into fashion. The inclined Head of “The Kneeling Woman” shows influence of both Rodin and the stylistic influences of the elongated Art Deco style.


Aristide Maillol’s sculpture “Standing Bather with Raised Arms” and “River” still have the influence of conventional form, but diverge into a more linear translation of the body. His work, compared to Rodin’s is more graphic and designed; more of an intellectual form than Rodin’s pure emotional form.

Looking at Marino Marini’s drawings show an easy translation into his sculptures. His drawings of the horse and rider are linear and without volume. He wasn’t concerned about the realistic nature of the human form- it would have distracted from the overall feel of his work. Instead his sculptures are essentially his line drawings filled in. Notice how Marini’s “Horseman” has a quiet, reflective nature. It presents a unified overall calmness undistracted by detail. Each line, continuous and unbroken, shapes both space and form into specific, delineated elements which are still and unmonumental in nature.


Speaking of economy of line and form, Alberto Giacometti sculpture “Tall Figure IV” is misleadingly simple. With its tall frailness and it’s bumpy, roughly textured heavy bronze he embodies both the frailness of the human body and its solidity. Alberto Giacometti is, both because of the nature of his work and because of his close friendship with the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the artist most closely identified with the Existentialist movement. Part of his art-historical importance springs from his defense of figuration at a time when the advantage was with abstract art. His work is a curious combination of flat linear form and three-dimensional organic form

Jacques Lipchitz was the sculptor of the Cubism Movement; an art movement which took place in the early 20th century and was led by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and the French artist Georges Braque. A nonobjective school of painting and sculpture developed in Paris in the early 20th century, characterized by the reduction and fragmentation of natural forms into abstract, often geometric structures usually rendered as a set of discrete planes. In his sculpture “The Figure”, Lipchitz takes his flat linear form into the third dimension of sculpture.

One can think about sculpture in the very classic art sense of it being an extension of drawing. Whether it has the linear qualities of a pencil line or the volumetric space of a tonal drawing, it exists in space. One can look at it as an artwork that is contained with lines and edges or a work that is growing from its core. Regardless of its linear and/or organic qualities, it always interacts with us, the public, in a very tangible way. Because , unlike drawing and painting, it exists in the same space we occupy, it changes our environment and the way the art relates to us on a personal level.


Sculpture almost stands in between two diametrics, drawing and architecture.

Around 1900 famous art historian August Schmarsow made this distinction: sculpture is the "shaper of bodies" and architecture the “shaper of space". Soon though, Architecture began to be more plastic and sculptural, and sculpture began to be less about the body and more about the space it creates. Thus, spurred on by Cubism, in 1912 Alexander Archipenko in cutting a hole in his Walking Woman attempted to fuse mass, volume, and empty space. Sculpture became more constructive and tectonic, establishing a connection with the geometric designs of the International Style represented by such architects as Vantongerloo and Mies van der Rohe. At the same time, architecture was becoming more sculptural. The opposite poles of hard geometric modernism--early Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe--and soft, organic biomorphic expressiveness create a dialogue between Expressionist and rationalistic architecture. The contrast between organic and geometric and between body and space is one in which sculpture, drawing, and architecture blur. "Why, it is my studio!" exclaimed Constantin Brancusi upon first seeing the Manhattan skyline from a ship in 1926. The agglomeration of cubical skyscrapers reminded him of


the geometric pedestals with their luminous bronze figures that the Romanian sculptor kept in his studio in Paris. Says Brancussi, “Real architecture is sculpture.” And I might add “Real sculpture is architecture and drawing combined.” Cindy Jackson



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