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Bronze - Royal Academy of Arts

See Bronze Gallery

Exhibition preview

FROM September 15 to December 9, 2012, the Royal Academy of Arts is presenting Bronze, a landmark exhibition that celebrates the remarkable historical, geographical and stylish range of this enduring medium.

This exhibition will bring together outstanding works from the earliest times to the present in a thematic arrangement that is fresh and unique. With works spanning 5,000 years, no such cross-cultural exhibition on this scale has ever been attemped.

The exhibition will feature over 150 of the finest bronzes from Asia, Africa and Europe and will include important discoveries as well as archaeological excavations. Many of the pieces have never been seen in the UK.

Arranged thematically, Bronze will bring together outstanding works from antiquity to the present. Different sections will focus on the Human Figure, Animals, Groups, Objects, Reliefs, Gods, Heads and Busts.

The exhibition will feature stunning Ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan bronzes, through to rare survivals from the Medieval period. The Renaissance will be represented with the works of artists such as Ghiberti, Donatello, Cellini, and later Giambologna, De Vries and others.

Bronzes by Rodin, Boccioni, Picasso, Jasper Johns, Moore, Beuys and Bourgeois will be representative of the best from the 19th century to today.

Bronze has been employed as an artistic medium for over five millennia. It is an alloy consisting mainly of copper, with lesser amounts of tin, zinc and lead. Due to its inherent toughness and resistance, the material’s uses over the centuries have been remarkably varied.

A section of the exhibition will be devoted to the complex process involved in making bronze, enabling visitors to explore how models are made, cast and finished by a variety of different techniques.

The exhibition offers a unique exploration of artistic practice, an understanding of the physical properties and distinctive qualities of bronze, and the rare opportunity to see the very best examples in one place.

Among the earliest works in the exhibition will be the 14th century BCE bronze and gold Chariot of the Sun (National Museum, Copenhagen), Denmark’s national treasure; ancient Chinese ritual vessels, including one impressively large example of the type ‘zun‘ of zoomorphic form, Elephant-shaped vessel, Shang Dynasty, 1200 – 1050 BCE (Musee Guimet, Paris); and the masterpiece of Estruscan art, the Chimera of Arezzo, c. 400 BCE (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence).

Recent archaeological finds will include the magnificent Portrait of King Seuthes III, early Hellenistic period (National Archeological Museum, Sofia), recently discovered during archaeological excavations in Bulgaria and the Crosby Garett Helmet, a Roman cavalry helmet found in Cumbria in 2010 and now in a private collection.

The exhibition will benefit from an extremely strong representation of Renaissance bronzes.

These will include Lorenzo Ghiberti’s St Stephen, 1425 – 29, for one of the external niches of the church of Orsanmichele, Florence; Giovanfrancesco Rustici’s monumental ensemble of St John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee (1506 -11) that for nearly 500 years was set above the north door of the Florence Baptistry (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence); Benvenuto Cellini’s modello for Perseus, c. 1554 (Museo del Bargello, Florence); and Adriaen de Vries’ relief of Vulcan’s Forge, 1611 (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich).

Works from the 19th century to today will include Auguste Rodin’s The Age of Bronze, c. 1876 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), Henri Matisse’s series of four Back Reliefs, 1901 – 31 (Tate Modern, London), Constantin Brancusi’s Danaide, c. 1918 (Tate Modern, London), Pablo Picasso’s witty Baboon and Young, 1951 (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), Jasper Johns’ Ale Cans, 1960 (Ludwig Museum, Cologne) and Louise Bourgeois’ Spider IV, 1996 (The Easton Foundation, New York).

The exhibition will be accompanied by a sumptuous catalogue examining bronze’s earliest beginnings in North Africa, the Middle East and China; the virtuosity of artists in ancient Greece and Rome; later developments in Asia and Africa; bronze’s great flowering in the European Renaissance; and its use in the modern era.

A unique testament to the works of art that one medium has inspired, Bronze contains lavish colour plates of over 150 masterworks arranged chronologically to take the reader on a voyage through time, tracing the work of bronze sculptors, casters and chasers through the centuries. The catalogue will be edited by Professor David Ekserdjian.

Bronze Gallery

The exhibition also includes a Japanese Bronze from The Khalili Collection.

Admission: £14 full price; £13 registered disabled and 60+ years; £9 NUS/ISIC cardholders; £4 12 – 18 years and Income Support; £3 8 – 11 years; 7 and under plus RA Friends free.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.30pm); Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm.

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Tel: 020 7300 8000


From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism continues at the Royal Academy of Arts until September 23, 2012.