One of the members of my email list recently asked:
In rereading The Fountainhead I was reminded of something I’ve long wondered about, in the story of Steven Mallory’s sculpture using Dominique as a model: why would an artist of Mallory’s stature need a model? If it isn’t a specific portrait, wouldn’t his ability and imagination be sufficient to invent (and retain in his mind) a figure projecting a more ideal image than any actual woman he’d be likely to find? … I’d love to hear a professional’s response to this.
I reached out to sculptors I know, and heard this from Michael Wilkinson.
Your subscriber’s question is insightful and has it mostly right about a sculptor being able to project a more ideal image than any actual woman hired as a model. I say mostly right, because there are rare exceptions where a model is perfect in every way, like Dominique Francon in the Fountainhead. Dominique’s stylized physique and her expression, evoked by Roark’s presence in the sculptor’s studio, inspired Mallory.
As a professional sculptor, I have logged many hours drawing and sculpting the human figure using a live model. The result is that I can create a clay figure from memory and don’t have to rely on a model over the entire course of creating a work, if at all. When I do use a model, especially for larger or complex works, it is as a reference for anatomical accuracy and detail — and as a baseline from which I can make anatomical changes to a sculpture for stylistic/esthetic reasons. And since it is rare that a model inspires in the manner of Dominique, it is up to me to imbue the work with meaning and expression.
About the sculpture above, Wilkinson adds:
Morning Light is a rare example of being inspired by a model (in a drawing class at the Art Student’s League). She did short, breath-taking, dramatic poses and I would try to capture her in a quick sketch. This pose, even without the floating in air (!), is a hard one for a model to hold for very long. It’s an example of knowing anatomy well enough to recreate a pose.
See more of Michael Wilkinson’s work here.
- Quent Cordair Fine Art in Napa, California is one of the galleries that carries Wilkinson’s work.
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