Return to Life

A New Look at the Portrait Bust

The portrait bust is a much neglected form, despite its long historical prestige. We have forgotten how to read the bust, largely because it seems so formulaic.

This catalogue looks more closely at this formula and argues that it does, in fact, provide licence for a range of subtle and inventive variations.

Specially commissioned photography examines some of the key decisions made by sculptors represented here, and focuses on the treatment of eyes, skin and musculature as well as on the choices made in the overall design.

This catalogue is published alongside Return to Life: A New Look at the Portrait Bust (HMI, 27 September 2000 – 7 January 2001), curated by Penelope Curtis, Peter Funnell and Nicola Kalinsky. In their introduction here, the curators describe the exhibits in terms of their part in a sequential and pluralistic ‘conversation’ with the other works on show.

Two new essays provide stimulating accounts of the historic setting of the sculpted bust, how it helped to establish communal identity, and of the specific relationships between sitter and sculptor, the head and its representation.

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