Statuette of a standing nude male figure in contrapposto, stretching his bent arms as if awakening from sleep
Already a renowned painter, Frederic Leighton became an influential sculptor almost by accident. Like many other 19th-century painters, he sculpted small clay figurines to aid him in his paintings. One of these studies, Athlete Wrestling with a Python, was enlarged to life-size and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1877, gaining him recognition as a sculptor. The Sluggard in this exhibition relates to Leighton’s second life-size sculpture (1886, Tate Britain, London), and is one of the numerous bronze statuettes cast from his preparatory sketch-model. If the Athlete shows a powerful Olympian hero at work, The Sluggard suggests languor, sensuality, and passivity. Both works quickly became a clarion call for the “New Sculpture” in England, a stylistically diverse movement marked by innovative reconsiderations of classical sculpture.
-Robert Chesnut (Class of 2016), University of Massachusetts Amherst
A Very Long Engagement: Nineteenth-Century Sculpture and Its Afterlives (July 29, 2017 - May 27, 2018)