Organised to mark the centenary of Emilio Greco’s birth, this exhibition was the first show at the Estorick Collection to be devoted to sculpture.
One of the key figures of post-war Italian art, Greco (1913-1995) was born in Catania, Sicily, where he was apprenticed at an early age to a stone mason and sculptor of funerary monuments. He taught sculpture in Rome, Carrara and Naples, but from the 1950s his own work increasingly received recognition.
Strongly influenced by Etruscan, Greek and Roman art, Greco is best known for his powerful classicised portrait busts and sensual nudes, often characterised by perfectly rounded heads. However, whilst life-size female figures dominate his oeuvre, Greco also received important religious commissions during his career, as did his contemporary Giacomo Manzù. These included a sculpture for St Peter’s in Rome commemorating Pope John XXIII, and a set of monumental doors for Orvieto Cathedral that reveal debts to Renaissance masters such as Donatello in their subtle bas-relief modelling. Studies for both of these major projects were on view.
In addition to a large number of works in bronze, this compelling exhibition also included examples of Greco’s characteristically vigorous yet elegant ink drawings – images reflecting the artist’s profoundly sculptural sensibility in their marked concern with volume.
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