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African Style Sculptures


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Elegant, with simple lines and intricate textures; African style sculptures beautifully enhance any space. For Amelia Stenson’s interesting view of the history and influence of African style sculptures read on.

By Amelia Stenson

Long neglected and overlooked as a potential treasure trove of significant art works, African art and, in particular, African sculpture, exploded onto the international art scene in the 19th century when a group of colonialists discovered some of the most sophisticated bronze sculptures in the world, the Benin Bronzes.

In fact, the earliest known sculptures were unearthed in the city of Nok in Nigeria's south in 500BC and truth be told, it was the African artist's ability to create objets d'art which engendered strong and emotional responses involving imagination and mysticism which prompted some of the leading artists of the time, including Picasso, Gauguin and Modigliani, to successfully embrace abstraction.

Although the famous, prehistoric Benin Bronzes, inspired and encouraged by royal patronage, are arguably the most famous of Africa's sculptures; man had been carving figurines, masks and busts out of a range of materials, including terracotta, ebony, ivory, ceramics and other hardwoods. Today, sculptures are created out of any durable material with sound, text and light considered important elements.

African sculpture dominated by the human form

Over the centuries, African sculpture has been dominated by the human form which symbolises both the living and the dead. The spirits of chiefs, drummers, hunters and dancers are expressed in a three dimensional, abstract way and in some societies sculptures can even be the anthropomorphic representations of a god!

The Bronze sculptures of 14th century Benin, however, are unique, not only in individual style but also because the range of bronze artifacts cast by the early artists were not confined to the human form. Sophisticated and realistic bronze busts of the ruling monarchy, brass plagues and enormous bronze bas reliefs were cast as attractive and durable palace décor.

The timely discovering of bronze as a hard, durable but workable material effectively changed the course of human history. Intelligent man had created a deadly alloy by blending copper, tin, lead and other metals into a virtually indestructible material.

The Benin Bronzes - precursors to significant European works

The Benin bronze craftsmen were the precursors to a number of significant artists who worked with bronze including Auguste Rodin, who created 'The Thinker', Donatello and his nude bronze of David and Benvenuto Cellini whose grisly bronze 'Perseus with the head of Medusa' graces a Piazza in Florence.

Famous international sculptures cover all genres, materials and periods and include the Terracotta Soldiers of the Qin Dynasty, Michelangelo's 'La Pieta', Henry Moore's 'Reclining Figure and Pablo Picasso's nameless public sculpture in Chicago.

Contemporary South African sculptors

Today contemporary South African art continues to follow the course of great African sculpture. Fanciful figurines, busts of political heroes, angry leopards in vivid movement and perfectly proportioned bronze nudes are some of the quality works by modern South African sculptors including, amongst others, Yoka Wright, Louis Chanu, Jean Doyle, Csaba Markus and Andre Stead.

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If you’re interested in creating a centrepiece for you home or work place, how about an African style sculpture? Décor and Furniture has a range of unique African themed sculptures to choose from, any of which will beautifully enhance any space. For more information on Décor and Furniture’s African style sculptures, head over to our showroom.

Date Posted: 2011-04-01
Posted By: Decor and Furniture
Listed under these Business Listing Categories: Forestry, Furniture & Wood Processing,

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