Humanising the Landscape: The outdoor placement of twentieth-century sculpture and its aesthetic impact upon the viewer.

MA Abstract

Twentieth-century landscape sculptures, born of Modernism and Abstractionism, replaced the convention and complexity of mythological deities, heraldic iconography and ecclesiastical emblemism with less god-like though wholly recognisable human forms.

The radical relocation of these sculptures – from traditional Italianate gardens to landscapes, seascapes and sculpture parks – ensured meaningful connections with their geographic and social contexts. These sculptures humanise the landscape by being curious yet easily understood, unexpected though accessible.

The previous literature on landscape and sculpture interprets sculptures, from the emblematic to the emotive is well-documented for historic landscapes but is neglectful of the spectacle of twentieth-century compositions.

This study addresses the creative forces and unprecedented terrains of twentieth-century landscape sculptures inspired by the social and economic upheavals of the post-war period.

Awareness of contemporary sculpture in Britain is attributed to the Open Air Exhibition of Sculpture held at Battersea Park in 1948. This outdoor exhibition publicly displayed a diverse array of both classical and abstract works for the first time, promoting a controversial artistic debate and catalysing a passion for contemporary art and an enthusiasm for sculpture parks.

The landscape sculptures in this study are typified by the work of three sculptors: Henry Moore (1898-1986), Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) and Antony Gormley (1950-). The aesthetic dynamism and increased monumentality of their work personified the ambitions of a nation intent upon post-war and post-recession regeneration. Gormley’s work, in particular, illustrates the impact that the astute placement of relevant landscape sculpture may have in creating a talisman for the economic resurgence of a community.

The legacy of these twentieth-century sculptures is their undoubted contribution towards creating an interactive environment in which art can be appreciated in specific landscape settings.

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