New Sculpture  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The New Sculpture refers to a movement in late nineteenth-century British sculpture.

The term "New Sculpture" was coined by the first historian of the movement, the critic Edmund Gosse, who wrote a four-part series for the Art Journal in 1894. After a protracted period of a stylized neoclassicism, sculpture in the last quarter of the century began to explore a greater degree of naturalism and wider range of subject matter. The French sculptor Jules Dalou, in his eight-year English exile after the Paris Commune events in 1871, taught modelling at the South Kensington School of Art, and then at the Lambeth School of Art. He profoundly influenced a new generation of British sculptors, helping to usher in a new approach to the medium.

The catalyst for this development is usually understood to be the exhibition, in 1877, of Frederic Leighton's Athlete Wrestling with a Python. This was Leighton's first major sculpture, and he intended it as a challenge to the prevailing styles of sculpture. It reflected his interest in a more dynamic and vibrant representation of the human body and a shift from easily legible and didactic subject matter. Many sculptors looked to the Athlete and created responses to it in the following years.

The New Sculpture represents an alternate formulation of a new direction for sculpture at the end of the nineteenth century. Whereas the major French alternative to mid-19th-century sculpture, Auguste Rodin, increasingly left the accurate representation of the human body behind, the New Sculptors by and large chose to grapple with issues arising from the naturalistic representation of the body and the detailed rendering of its surface variations. The New Sculpture does not represent one singular style, but rather a range of options developed to make sculpture more vital and life-like.


Major figures associated with the New Sculpture include:


  • Beattie, Susan. The New Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.
  • Curtis, Penelope, et al. eds. Sculpture in 20th-Century Britain. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2003.
  • Getsy, David. Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.
  • Getsy, David, ed., Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c.1880-1930. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.
  • Gosse, Edmund. "The New Sculpture: 1879–1894 Art Journal 56 (1894): 138–42, 199–203, 277–82, 306–11.
  • Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "New Sculpture" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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