NCAS Research Fellow Catesby Leigh to Speak on "Classical Sculpture: A Lost Art?"


On April 27 in Boston, National Civic Art Society Research Fellow Catesby Leigh will be giving a keynote address sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architectural & Art, in celebration of the 2019 Bulfinch Awards. Leigh's lecture is on the theme "Classical Sculpture: A Lost Art?"

The Greeks defined monumentality in sculpture during the fifth century, B.C., and the classical standard they established in doing so held sway well into the Christian era. That standard re-emerged during the Renaissance, but it was losing traction by the time our nation won its independence. To understand why, one must distinguish between style and content in sculpture. The high-quality classical sculpture for which the Greeks and modern masters ranging from Michelangelo to Houdon are known is very complex in its formal content. Since the late 18th century, and partly thanks to Canova's "neoclassicism," the focus has been on style at the expense of content. The advent of photography in the mid-19th century reinforced this trend, and photography's vitiating influence on the academic tradition remains as powerful as ever. It's reasonable to ask, even at a time when classical architecture is enjoying a noteworthy resurgence, whether classical sculpture, as the Greeks understood it, is a thing of the past. Even if that is so, it does not mean sculpture has not continued to play an essential role in our classical institutional buildings and monuments.

Catesby Leigh has been writing about public art and architecture for over 20 years. Particular areas of interest have been monuments (and anti-monuments), institutional buildings, urban planning, and painting and sculpture. His commentary has appeared in The Wall Street JournalCity JournalFirst ThingsNational ReviewWeekly StandardClaremont Review of BooksModern AgeArts & Antiques, and other publications. Leigh is a co-founder and past chair of the National Civic Art Society. Currently an NCAS research fellow, he is working on a long-term book project concerning the nature of monumentality and its American manifestations. He lives in Washington, D.C..

To register for the event, which runs from 9:00 AM to noon, click HERE.