Nature Made Strange: Exploring the Sculptural in Ornament form Cellini to Carabin

17th October 2003
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

The relationship between sculpture and ornament is often defined in terms of context and application, such as architectural decoration and applied art, or is trivialised as ‘pretty’ in domestic, functional, and commercial objets. The darker, more serious side of sculptural ornament is often ignored. The conference raises the notion of ornament as a specific, plastic language that was explored in both literature and visual art from the Renaissance to the early 20th century.

Throughout modern art history, the making of objects is marked by a recurrent predilection for opulent forms, embellished, protruding surfaces, rich materials and colours. From the denatured organicity that makes up a baroque picture frame, to the eerily-animated ‘livingness’ of Art Nouveau furniture, there was a preoccupation with the strange and the fantastic that this conference seeks to explore.

The conference encourages an inter-disciplinary approach to objects, drawing upon literary, visual and art historical sources, as well as sculpture and design history, so as to facilitate a broad exploration of the way in which meanings and perceptions of sculptural ornament have developed and shifted over the 18th and 19th centuries.