Bronze is an excellent choice for statue-making because the material is far more durable than marble or terra cotta. Many ancient statues carved from marble are missing the head or limbs, but bronze statues are much more able to stand the test of time at least in terms of staying whole. What bronze loses to marble is a sense of the lifelike, but bronze does retain a certain abstract power that can endow some artworks with a greater sense of timelessness.
The Thinker by August Rodin is a good example of how bronze imbues the work with an abstract quality that takes it out of its time and stamps a sense of the eternal upon it. The original concept of this recognizable figure of a male with his chin on resting on his hand and his elbow resting on his thigh was that the figure would represent the poet Dante sitting in front of the gates of hell. The statue was going to be one of a series of statues that depicted Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. The failure of this original concept to move to fruition and the subsequent move of the piece into a more abstract idea of a thinker in general doubtlessly helped make Rodin’s sculpture one of the most instantly recognizable artworks in the world. The 1950s TV sitcom “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” opened several of its episodes with the title character addressing the audience while positioned in front of a replica. The original is on display at the Musee Rodin in Paris.
Frederic Remington is one of the most famous American artists to work in bronze. Remington’s statues are responsible, along with dime novels and early Hollywood movies, in creating the mythic idea that of Old West. Remington created so many iconic images of western mythos in bronze that it would be very difficult to pick out just one as the most famous, but Bronco Buster would have to be considered one of the most important of Remington’s work. Like of all of Remington’s bronze statues, Bronco Buster has a kinetic energy that almost makes it seem like you are watching a moving object rather than a static creation. Bronco Buster depicts the most iconic image of the Old West imaginable: a frontier cowboy attempting to break a wild bronco horse. This statue also plays an important part in Remington’s canon because it was actually one of the first times he tried working in bronze.
The Statue of Prometheus that overlooks the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center is certainly one of the most famous bronze statues in the world. In fact, only the Statue of Liberty may be a more famous statue in New York. The statue created by Paul Manship depicts the legend of the Greek titan Prometheus. Prometheus is frozen forever at the moment of triumph when he stole fire from the gods to give to human beings.
- Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images