The first name that comes to mind when thinking of great sculptors is Bernini. When we look at his sculptures there are parallels to the baroque approach to painting. Although he is creating form in three dimensions, he still ‘paints’ in light and dark so that the baroque symbolism of the Light overcoming the darkness is there. He is quoted as having deliberately cut the lines in his statues deeper to accentuate his shadow, especially, as he said, that he did not have coloured paint to work with, only contrast of light and dark. This is why he took such care to consider that placement of his works relative to the source of light. Some artists, such as Alonso Cano and the other Spanish workers in wood of the baroque period did paint their work (hence the name ‘polychrome’ – many coloured). Unless the sculptor intends to follow Cano and paint his work then he must consider how the interplay of light and shadow in his work will affect the ability of the viewer to see what is intended.
One of the great problems that we see in modern attempts to create beautiful art is that it lacks power. The visual vocabulary of modern art has been developed to communicate what is bad. It cannot communicate goodness and truth well (ie beautifully) and retain its power, so if we try the result always seems to be sentimentality. We are all a product of our times, and will be influenced by the culture of the day whether we wish to be or not. This means the Christian artist must be especially aware of this tendency to sentimentality in his work.
When I was learning to paint icons, my teacher Aidan Hart, told me to break curves up into a series of straight lines in order as a way of avoiding sentimentality and giving the painting rhythm and power. Later, when I was studying Western naturalism in Florence, part of my study involved drawing casts of Bernini statues. I saw that he had done something similar. The lines of drapery are usually represented not as curves, but as a series of intersecting lines (or perhaps more accurately, as series of broader arcs). It might be surprising to some that there are such parallels between iconography and the baroque, but I discovered a number which I recognised because of my exposure to both traditions. This (Read More)