Art Term

New sculpture

New sculpture is a name applied to the sculptures produced by a group of artists working in the second half of the nineteenth century

Frederic, Lord Leighton, ‘An Athlete Wrestling with a Python’ 1877
Frederic, Lord Leighton
An Athlete Wrestling with a Python 1877
Tate
Edward Onslow Ford, ‘The Singer’ exhibited 1889
Edward Onslow Ford
The Singer exhibited 1889
Tate
Sir Alfred Gilbert, ‘Icarus’ 1882–4
Sir Alfred Gilbert
Icarus 1882–4
Tate

The term was coined by critic Edmund Gosse in an 1876 article in Art Journal titled The New Sculpture in which he identified this new trend in sculpture. Its distinguishing qualities were a new dynamism and energy as well as physical realism, mythological or exotic subject matter and use of symbolism, as opposed to prevailing style of frozen neoclassicism. It can be considered part of symbolism.

The keynote work was seen by Gosse as Lord Fredrick Leighton’s Athlete Wrestling with a Python, but the key artist was Sir Alfred Gilbert followed by Sir George Frampton. An Important precursor was Michelangelesque work of Alfred Stevens.

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