Limestone in Art

Our art museum, located on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University, is situated right in the heart of limestone country. Bloomington and the surrounding area are known as sources for some of the best limestone in the world. Limestone from southern Indiana has been used to create such iconic structures as the Empire State Building and Yankee Stadium in New York and the Pentagon and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. It is the predominant building material throughout the Indiana University Bloomington campus, which was named the second most beautiful campus in the country in a 2016 USA Today poll. Every June we celebrate Limestone Month in Bloomington. It is an excellent opportunity to discuss limestone’s presence in the history of art, as well as some examples of limestone art in our collection.

Limestone has been used as a material in art since before antiquity. The Venus of Willendorf (28,000–25,000 BCE), one of the oldest and most famous surviving works of art, is made of Oolitic limestone (Oolitic is also the name of a town just south of Bloomington). The Great Pyramid of Giza was encased in Tura limestone, and the Great Sphinx of Giza, located in the pyramid complex, is made of Nummulitic limestone. (For an interesting and odd connection between the Great Pyramid of Giza and Indiana, read up on the failed attempt to create a limestone replica of the pyramid in Needmore, Indiana, in the 1970s.) Use of limestone can also be found in Sumerian, Egyptian, Cypriot, Greek, and Roman cultures, as well as medieval Europe, and China.

Two early examples from the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection include a Servant Figure of a Brewer, an Egyptian statuette dating to the 5th Dynasty (ca. 2,565–2,420 BCE) and Striding Young Man, a Greek kouros (a statue of a standing nude youth popular during the Archaic period), which dates to 500–450 BCE.

A more recent example of limestone sculpture in our collection is Peasant (La Paysanne) by the French artist Marcel Damboise (1903–1992), which you can read more about here.

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Marcel Damboise (French 1903-1922). Peasant (La Paysanne), 1938-1939. Stone. Gift of Danielle Damboise Françoise, daughter of the artist, 2016.2

The museum also owns a beautiful print by Indiana University Professor Emeritus of Photography Jeffrey Wolin, from his Stone Country series. Just this year, an updated version of Wolin’s book Stone Country: Then and Now, was released by IU Press. It serves as an artistic and informative document of the limestone industry and quarries of southern Indiana.

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Jeffrey Wolin (American, born 1951). Winter, Oolitic, from Stone Country, 1984. Gelatin silver print. 90.18.7

If you are interested in other ways to celebrate Limestone Month, check out the Visit Bloomington calendar, which covers this month’s festivities in the city. Of particular note is a photography exhibition titled Building a Nation: Indiana Limestone, on view all month at Fountain Square Mall.

Spotlights: Two Recent Acquisitions On View in French Sculpture Collection

84.10Image: Jacques Lipchitz (French, born Lithuania, 1891-1973). Harlequin with Guitar, 1926. Bronze. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Hope, 84.10

This summer the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is offering a special exhibition called Spotlights: Five Views into the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Collection, on view June 11-September 4, 2016. In this exhibition each of the museum’s five curators has chosen a group of objects to highlight due to their rarity, research interest, or importance, as a way of further displaying the range and quality that make the museum’s collection among the best in the country. You can find an overview of the exhibition HERE, and we will be taking a deeper look at the individual collections “spotlighted” here on the blog this summer. This week we focus on a collection of French sculpture curated by Jenny McComas, the museum’s Curator of European and American Art.

Between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century, Paris was the birthplace of avant-garde movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism. While the paintings associated with these movements are well known, sculpture, too, played a significant role in the development of modern French art. The Eskenazi Museum of Art has a strong collection of sculptures by artists who were active in France during this time. While some of these works are always on view in the museum’s permanent gallery, this exhibition offers an expanded survey of our holdings in this area, including two new acquisitions, which you can see below.

2016.1Image: Charles Malfray (French, 1887-1940). Rider Crossing the Marne, 1915. Terracotta. Museum purchase with funds from Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, 2016.1

Charles Malfray’s work blends aspects of classicism and modernism, though many of his subjects referred to his experiences on World War I battlefields. This sculpture may allude to the First Battle of the Marne, which took place in September 1914. Possibly a model for a larger work, this terracotta reveals the spontaneity of Malfray’s working process.

2016.2Image: Marcel Damboise (French 1903-1992). Peasant (La Paysanne), 1938-39. Stone. Gift of Danielle Damboise Françoise, daughter of the artist, 2016.2

Born in Marseilles, Marcel Damboise apprenticed with a stonecutter before moving to Paris to pursue sculpture. Damboise’s work is characterized by a respect for traditional forms and subjects. He also conveyed a sense of modernity by simplifying forms and giving prominence to the mark of the artist’s hand—as evidenced by the patterning carved into this sculpture’s surface. This beautiful work was a generous gift to our museum from the daughter of the artist.

The other sculptures on view as part of our Spotlights exhibition range from the figurative, classicizing sculptures of Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol to more experimental works by the Cubist Henri Laurens and the Surrealist Marcel Jean. As the center of the art world, Paris also attracted artists from around the globe. Some of these immigrants—including Jacques Lipchitz, born to a Jewish family in Lithuania; Alexander Archipenko, a native of Ukraine; and Julio González from Barcelona—were among the most important contributors to the development of French modernism, drawing both on their diverse backgrounds and their enthusiasm for Parisian culture. We hope you take the opportunity to visit the museum and see the full collection on view through September 4, 2016. Admission to the Eskenazi Museum of Art is always FREE. If you have any questions, please contact us at iuam@indiana.edu.

If you would like to learn more about French Sculpture visit the French Sculpture Census website.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website