Germany’s Michelangelo?

Arno Breker (1900-1991)

Rare photo of Arno Breker in his studio

To celebrate the man is a controversial notion; to celebrate his brilliant work, less so.  Though most of his public work survived World War II, 90% of it was destroyed by the Allies at the end of the war.  A sad state-of-affairs but thoroughly understandable.  Breker socialized with the likes of Albert Speer and Hitler, joined the Nazis and became the official state sculptor for Germany, taking commissions from the Nazis from 1933 to 1942.  As magnificent as his sculptures are, you can also see where they could have been used to symbolize the so-called perfect “Arian Race”.

So take a look at some samples of his work and decide for yourself what side of posterity you come down on.

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The Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Abbas giant, also referred to as the Rude Man or the Rude Giant, is a hill figure of a giant naked man on a hillside near the village of Cerne Abbas, to the north of Dorchester, in Dorset, England. The 180 ft (55 m) high, 167 ft (51 m) wide figure is carved into the side of a steep hill, and is best viewed from the opposite side of the valley or from the air. The carving is formed by a trench 12 in (30 cm) wide,and about the same depth, which has been cut through grass and earth into the underlying chalk. In his right hand the giant holds a knobbled club 120 ft (37 m) in length. A 1996 study found that some features of the image have changed over time; notably, the study concluded that the figure originally held a cloak in its left arm and stood over a disembodied head.

The figure’s origin and age is unknown. Early antiquarians associated it with a Saxon deity, though there is little evidence for such a connection. Other scholars sought to identify it with a Celtic British figure or the Roman Heracles, or some syncretization of the two. The 1996 discoveries strengthened the identification with Heracles, who was often depicted wielding a club and carrying a cloak made from the Nemean Lion. However, since the first descriptions of the figure do not appear until the mid-18th century, many scholars conclude that it is not significantly older than that. Regardless of its age, the Cerne Abbas giant has become an important part of local culture and folklore, which often associates it with fertility.

Like several other chalk figures carved into the English countryside, the Cerne Abbas giant is often thought of as an ancient creation. However, like many of the other figures, its history cannot be traced back further than the late 17th century, making an origin during the Celtic, Roman or even Early Medieval periods difficult to demonstrate. Above and to the right of the giant’s head is an earthwork known as the “Trendle”, or “Frying Pan”. Medieval writings refer to this location as “Trendle Hill”, but make no mention of the giant, leading to the conclusion that it was probably only carved about 400 years ago. In contrast, the Uffington White Horse — an unquestionably prehistoric hill figure on the Berkshire Downs — was noticed and recorded by medieval authors.

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Richmond Barthe

Richmond Barthe1

James Richmond Barthé (January 28, 1901 – March 5, 1989) was an African American sculptor known for his many public works, including the Toussaint L’Ouverture Monument in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and a sculpture of Rose McClendon for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House.

Barthe once said that “all my life I have be interested in trying to capture the spiritual quality I see and feel in people, and I feel that the human figure as God made it, is the best means of expressing this spirit in man.”

Richmond Barthe2Richmond Barthé was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, (in January 1901). His father died at 22, when Richmond was only one month old, leaving his mother to raise him alone. Barthé spent his teen years in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Richmond Barthe3

Lyle Saxon of the Times Picayune newspaper, tried unsuccessfully against racist policy to get Barthé registered in art school in New Orleans. In 1924, with the aid of a Catholic priest, the Reverend Harry Kane, S.S.I, and with less than a high school education and no formal training in art, Barthé was admitted to the Art Institute of Chicago. During the next four years Barthé followed a curriculum structured for majors in painting. During his four years of study he worked as a busboy at a small café. His work caught the attention of Dr. Charles Maceo Thompson, a patron of the arts and supporter of many talented young black artists. Barthé was a flattering portrait painter, and Dr. Thompson helped him to secure many lucrative commissions from the city’s affluent black citizens.

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Why would anyone object?

Some residents don’t appreciate being mooned by new artwork

By AMY HAMILTON/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

The town of Silt has become the butt of jokes in recent weeks all because a new sculpture at the town’s entrance depicts a rock climber’s bare bum.

After the sculpture’s unveiling in late August – a rendition of large rock decked with wildlife, a fly fisherman, a coal car and a cougar perched atop – it’s the backside of a nondescript human figure climbing its west flank that’s been in the national media spotlight.

nude-climber

Residents in the small town of about 2,500 are divided on whether the sculpture, commissioned by the city, in the town’s roundabout is too cheeky.

“I have friends in San Diego and Nevada, and they said they saw a story about Silt,” said Poke Stiers, who owns the shop Tim’s Tools, near the sculpture. “I said, ‘Was it about our roundabutt?’ “

Most drivers in the roundabout do not pay any attention to the bare-bottomed climber, but some exit 1-70 just to see the sculpture.

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