Pompon’s Polar Bear
Posted on July 28, 2017
I was reminded of the french sculptor François Pompon when I was looking at several of our projects recently. In architecture, massing refers to the structure as it exists in three dimensions and creates the sense of space, scale, and form of buildings. It can be additive or subtractive and along with the influence of the materials used it, has a major impact on how the building is perceived. Pompon worked with animals and he is often thought of as the father of modern sculpture. He once said “I first do the animal with almost all its trappings. Then I gradually eliminate them…”
L’Ours Blanc (the White bear) is located at the Musée d’Orsay, a former train station and one of my favorite museums. His work seems to capture the spirit of the animals while their mass grounds them and speaks to permanence. He didn’t get recognition until he was in his sixties because he was a sought after assistant, famously hewing blocks of marble for Rodin & Camille Claudel. You can see his influence on modern sculpture in Constantin Brâncuși.
“I love sculpture without holes or shadows” he once said. Colette was affected by the “thick, mute” paws of his animals. I am struck by how quickly my mind takes these soft fluid forms and immediately knows the animal, visualizing the details. They seem to be caught in fluid moments of movement made permanent by stone.
I am reminded of Pompon when looking at the vernacular of New Mexico & Texas. The play of light and the simplicity of from are similarly simple and give me a sense of permanence and weight. When mass and form lead over ornamentation, somehow the essence of the object seems even more moving.