Review of Sculpture the Art and the Practice

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by Nigel Konstam, published by Verrocchio Arts, ISBN 0-9523568-1-3Sculpture the Art and Practice by Nigel Konstam

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'Even if you are not into sculpture, or don't intend to be, here is a book well worth reading for its lively, knowledgeable and stimulating discussion on the nature of art and the way an artist's mind works, all set out with conviction and clarity . . . A well conceived and well illustrated volume with plenty of pictures, some in colour, both practical and inspirational.' Jonathan Stephenson, The Artist

'A most remarkable handbook for 3D students . . . marvellous chapters dealing in depth with imagination and creativity, structure and composition.' Joe Burns, The Cork Examiner

The main book (first published by Collins in 1984 and reprinted in 1994) has become a standard text for students and art lovers and is recommended by the Open University.

Two years ago the author, the distinguished sculptor Nigel Konstam, made a series of discoveries concerning Ancient Greek Sculptural methods that are destined to bring about a paradigm shift in our perception of the art of the classical period. Most important among these is the near certainty that life-size bronzes, including the famous Riace figures, were not derived from sculpted models, as was previously assumed, but from wax figures that were cast from life.

In a 35-page supplement to the third edition, Konstam gives a vivid account of these discoveries and the way he came upon them. Frustrated by the way that archaeologists' theories conflicted with his own experience as a foundryman, he designed a foundry set-up using technology that would have been available in 500 BC. Then, on a visit to Athens, he actually found the remains of an ancient furnace chimney of the type that he knew must have been involved. To his amazement, it turned out to be very much larger than he had envisioned, quite the equal of a nineteenth-century industrial chimney. The section that remains, 12m long and 2m in diameter, is illustrated in the book by colour photographs. The original must have been capable of melting sufficient bronze for the colossal statues that formed a part of the Acropolis decorations before it was sacked by the Persians in 470 BC.

This first-hand account of an astonishing series of ground-breaking discoveries will interest the layman as well as specialists in the field of archaeology and sculpture. Constant reference to techniques that are fully described in the main book, together with copious illustrations, make this complex subject easily understood. The shock of these revelations does not diminish the extraordinary achievement of the ancient Greek sculptors but adds a new dimension to our understanding of it.

Nigel Konstam's foundry discoveries were published in The Oxford Journal of Archaeology in May 2002.

A second Article was published in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology in the November 2004 issue on Life Casting.

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