03 December 2016 | 6 °C

Exhibition Review: Bronze @ Royal Academy

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 51 months ago
Exhibition Review: Bronze @ Royal Academy
********: Wrestler, from Villa dei Pisoni at Ercolano. Naples, National Museum*** Permission for usage must be provided in writing from Scala.
Athlete, Roman copy of Hellenistic original, school of Lysippos, from Herculaneum. Museo Archeologico, Naples. Photo copyright 2011, Scala, Florence, courtesy of the Ministero Beni
Key. 264  
 The Buddha Shakyamuni in Abhaya-mudra, probably Bihar, Gupta Period, India, 6th century
 Bronze, 68.6 x 27.3 x 17.8 cm
 Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.008
 Photo Courtesy of Asia Society, New York
The Buddha Shakyamuni in Abhaya-mudra, probably Bihar, Gupta Period, India, 6th century. Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.008 Photo Courtesy of Asia Society, New York
Key. 530 
 Louise Bourgeois, Spider IV, 1996
 Bronze, 203.2 x 180.3 x 53.3 cm
 Collection The Easton Foundation, courtesy Hauser & Wirth and Cheim & Read
 Photo Peter Bellamy
 Copyright Louise Bourgeois Trust
Louise Bourgeois, Spider IV, 1996. Collection The Easton Foundation, courtesy Hauser & Wirth and Cheim & Read Photo Peter Bellamy Copyright Louise Bourgeois Trust
Key. 196
 Adriaen de Vries, Vulcan's Forge, 1611
 Bronze, 47 x 56.5 cm
 Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich
 Photo Copyright Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Walter Haberland
Adriaen de Vries, Vulcan's Forge. Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich Photo Copyright Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Walter Haberland
Key. 40  
 Chimera of Arezzo, Etruscan, c. 400 BCE
 Bronze, 78.5 x 129 cm
 Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana
 Photo Antonio Quattrone, Florence
Chimera of Arezzo, Etruscan. Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana Photo Antonio Quattrone, Florence
Plastik / Bronze (2. H�lfte 16. Jh) von    Barth�l�my Prieur [1536 - 1611]    H�he 29,3 cm   Inventar-Nr.: 2097   Systematik:    Kulturgeschichte / Kunst / Stilepochen / Renaissance / Plastik
Barthelemy Prieur, Acrobat. Skulpturensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Photo Jorg P. Anders copyright 2011, Scala, Florence/BPK, Berlin

What does bronze mean to us? The Olympics and Paralympics have taught us that it's something to be proud of, but we'd rather have silver or gold. It's also the copper alloy that is used in most of the statues spread around town.

Considering the number of these statues in London, can an indoor bronze exhibition still enthral us? In a word, yes. The exhibition starts off strongly with a room dedicated to human figures, ranging from the sinuous lines of a Rodin to the monstrous melting Clam Digger by Willem De Kooning. Yet towering over all of these is Perseus holding aloft the head of  medusa in an exquisite replica of the Florentine masterpiece by Cellini.

Animals carry on the intensity with a tiger devouring a gavial and a threatening chimaera, plus great modern works such as Richier's angular praying mantis and Louise Burgeois' spider that appears as if it's scrambling across the gallery wall.

Another impressive aspect of this exhibition is the variety of sculptures on display including many works from Asia and Africa such as the detailed relief from Benin featuring a warrior with his attendants. It's remarkable that there are also many Italian works on display as Italy is usually loath to see any of its treasures travel, yet there is even a Donatello on show.

This is an excellent survey of works cast in bronze from across the world, and highlights the amazing abilities of sculptors in this medium, from ancient times through to the modern day. It's an exhibition not to be missed and might help us Londoners appreciate our own bronze statues a little more.

Bronze is on at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadily, W1J 0BD until 9 December. Tickets are £14, concessions available.

Also still on at the Royal Academy, but closing soon, is the excellent Impressionism exhibition.

A ticket to either of these two exhibition grants visitors free entry to the experimental Artist's Laboratory.

Last Updated 15 September 2012