Antoine Bourdelle
Dylan Lewis
Nandipha Mntambo
& Anton van Wouw

Rupert Museum, Stellentia Road, Stellenbosch On show till 11 September 2022

In a celebration of sculpture, the Rupert Museum’s latest exhibition brings together a selection of figurative works mostly bronze created by sculptors from different continents and more than a century apart. The selection features a European Master, Old South African Master as well as two contemporary South African Greats and casts a view on shared influences, style, execution, and approach to their practice.

Exhibition view
Front: MNTAMBO, Nandipha (b1982) Agoodjie I & II, 2021. Bronze, 1/5 Courtesy of Everard Read Gallery
Back: LEWIS, Dylan (b1964) Beast with Two Backs, Monumental. 2020. Fibre reinforced acrylic plaster


With the inclusion of maquettes, the exhibition provides insight into technique and process in the production of bronze works. At first glance, the contrasting characteristics of the selection dominate, in both scale and style. Yet on closer inspection, the subject matter and parallel narratives become abundantly apparent in its explorations of the human condition from the every day, the mythical, and the monumental.

The Masters Antoine Bourdelle (French, 1861–1929) and Anton van Wouw (Dutch-South African, 1862–1945), produced at the zenith of the monument era, are both known for their commemorative and historical pieces for monuments and memorial sites in the countries they lived. Bourdelle’s study of the greats, for example, led him to his lifelong concern for the public function of sculpture and its relationship to outdoor settings. When creating sculptures, he always had the potential of its monumentality in mind, evidently inspired and directed by Romanesque art. However, the focus in this exhibition is on the work they produced beyond these parameters.

Van Wouw’s sculptures, for example, show an array of different moods and situations the sitters are placed, giving the viewer a sense and feeling towards the moment and individual portrayed. During his lifetime Van Wouw completed many smaller sculptures in the form of portraits of men, women and children, Boer generals, and political leaders. Bourdelle drew inspiration from nature with its unrelenting seasonality and classical Greco-Roman mythology, which aligns the very same with the divine.


LEWIS, Dylan (b1964)
Beast with Two Backs, Monumental. 2020. Fibre reinforced acrylic plaster
Courtesy of Dylan Lewis Studio


The thread of this tradition is evident in both the work of Nandipha Mntambo (South African, b1982) and Dylan Lewis (South Africa, b1964) despite their careers having diverging origins and running trajectories. Lewis found his current subject matter between the powerful animality of African big cats and the complexity in physicality and psyche of human interrelationships. With these figurative sculptures a sense of longing, and striving for connection is felt while representing a release of libidinal energies. Mntambo embodies the animal, exploring the sub-context of bovine as property, currency, sacred or divine. The embodiment and reference to the animal, mostly cows, and bulls, as well as life and death, is further explored by the artist through her interest in the Greek myths of Europa, Zeus, the Minotaur, and Ophelia as well as the Hindu legend of Nandi the bull. She further subverts perceptions of gender and tradition by highlighting marginalized histories through her physical form. Van Wouw and Mntambo’s academic and observational approach links stylistically and echoes traditions of Renaissance sensibilities. Yet Van Wouw’s work is set apart from the others by his engagement and treatment of the sitter, to reflect their finer characteristics and detail.

In contrast, the work of both Bourdelle and Lewis converge through incorporating postimpressionist distortion and appreciation for the textured surface, elevating the drama in their figures. Their smaller-scale works are more closely associated with sketches developing in detail, texture, and presence as it scales up, unlike Van Wouw’s medium-scale studies, with the most tender and delicate finishes.

From miniature to monumental, scale is employed in this exhibition to play on the idea of humanity as everything from majestic and powerful to fallible, delicate, humble, and sincere. Visitors are invited to explore the exhibition, devoid of two-dimensional framed work, and relish in the sculptural application inspired by the body and psyche, that is our common experience.

Exhibition view
Left to right:
LEWIS, Dylan (b1964)
Interrelation IX, Maquette I, 2020. Bronze
Courtesy of Dylan Lewis Studio
BOURDELLE, Antoine (1861-1929)
Pénélope au fuseau / Pénélope with spindle, 1905. Bronze, 6/10
Beethoven esquisse monument / Beethoven sketch for monument, 1903. Bronze, 5/10
Femme aix bras levés / Woman with arms raised, 1905. Bronze
Rupert Art Foundation and Huberte Goote Collections


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