The Cycladic figurines and their influence on modern art
Among the earliest depictions of the human form, Cycladic figurines impress us today with their minimalist and timeless interpretation.
However, until the mid-20th century, archaeologists and the public considered them “crude,” “coarse” and “primitive.” Until then, people admired the realistic human forms of Classical Greek art, such as the famous statues “Hermes” of Praxiteles (4th century BC) or the Hellenistic “Venus de Milo” (2nd century BC), considering them to be the paragons of statuary sculpture.
“No one since has ever made an object stripped that bare.” Pablo Picasso
During the end of the 19th century and more so at the beginning of the 20th century, renowned European artists, sculptors and painters such as Brancusi, Matisse, Moore, Coper, Hepworth, Picasso, Giacometti, Modigliani and others discovered Cycladic figurines in museums and collections.
“I love and admire Cycladic sculpture. It has such great elemental simplicity.” Henry Moore
Another way of seeing
Modern artists were fascinated and inspired by the flattened marble figures with their simplicity and symmetry. Through their work, they invite us to see the Cycladic figurines from a different perspective and to envision a bridge across the millennia.
“If I wanted to render your form in sculpture, I would make something almost flat, barely carved that would look more like the Cycladic figurines.” Alberto Giacometti
Is it ancient or modern?
There are no written accounts from the era of the Cycladic Civilization that could help us interpret the Cycladic figurines with certainty. However, modern artists, through their own thoughts and works, and their own creative journey, show us the way to many different readings of the figurines.
“This sculpture reminds me of those little marble Cycladic figurines that time does not touch and that encompass everything.” Amadeo Modigliani