Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova

Born: 1757. Died: 1822.

Biography

Italian sculptor, a dominant figure in Western art in his day.

Born near Venice, he settled in Rome in 1781 - where he soon belonged to an international group of neoclassical artists intent in revolutionary change.

Public commissions showed him chastening his originally lively, naturalistic style in search of the beauty afforded by clear forms and the harmony of tines and relationships recommended by Winckelmann.

Sculpture made for popes Clement XIII and XIV established his fame and led to commissions from European and American patrons.

He travelled occasionally but claimed he could work only in Rome.

He received many papal and foreign honors, and was known to be friendly and supportive to young colleagues.

In 1810, he was elected president of the Academy of St Luke, and its president in perpetuity in 1814.

His work ranged from portrait busts to large heroic groups (the sculptural equivalent of history paintings); his style allowed for a range from delicate lyricism, as in Cupid and Psyche (1787-3), The Three Graces (1812-14) to enduring gravity and concentrated symbolism, as in his Monument to the Archduchess Maria Christina (1798-1805), described by a contemporary as 'a scene from Sophocles, executed in thai era', and Canova's variant of a tomb he had designed for Titian.

Canova was judged to have outdone the ancients in his work, and thus contributed to the ending of the long tradition whereby the antique had for centuries been thought superior to anything modern.

In his concentration on form and all-round viewpoints he prepared the ground for the revitalization of sculpture in the later 19th century by Carpeaux, Hildebrand, Rodin and others, but the wave of romanticism, rising as he died, made his immediate successors regard his work as academic and dry.

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