Thursday, 5 May 2016
The dancing ladies man
This book is the second the author has written on Chiparus, the first was published in 1993 (reprinted in 1999) with 216 pages and commands remarkably high prices second-hand. Fortunately this new book has a lot more pages and visual content and I expect it will become the standard work on this remarkable artist.
Chipartus (1886-1947) though born in Romania is really part of that wonderful French, or should that be Parisian, Art Decorative movement inspired by the cities 1925 International Exposition. The book reproduces dozens of his statues based on themes from the Ballet Russes, Paris music halls, Egypt plus the 1922 opening of Tutankhamun's tomb and the art of the Orient. The dancing female figure was a Chiparus staple and classed as chryselephantine sculpture made from ivory and bronze, used because it could fill the smallest detail in a mould. An initial plasteline model was made (several of these are shown in the book with a page reference to the finished statue) and given to a foundry to cast in bronze, an ivory-carving workshop created the faces and other parts of the body not covered by clothing then all the pieces were screwed together for the final statue.
I found the reference to the foundry ivory-carving workshop interesting, it implies that a statue cast several times would have identical bronze clothing but the faces could be very slightly different because they were individual carved from ivory. On page 171 there is a photo of ‘Les girls’, five dancers with just their faces and hands in ivory, each face within the five is similar but not identical, other castings of the statue would have slight changes to each face, too.
Chiparus , not content with creating stunning figurines, wanted them to stand on an appropriate base, usually made from onyx or marble and carved into various abstract shapes. Looking through the book there doesn’t seem to be any repeated bases and the text mentions that the same statue available on a different base. Also a statue could be in two different sizes.
Throughout his life Chiparus was known as a sculpture but the book’s back pages reveal some other aspects of his creativity with examples of oil paintings, ceramics and terracotta work. I found these all rather bland when compared to his exquisite dancing ladies.
The book is a large, handsome (and heavy) production with three hundred colour illustrations beautifully printed on a matt art paper. No doubt soon to become the standard work on Mister Art Deco.