Sculptor George Anthonisen deals primarily with human figures, forging their image in bronze sculpture. This fall a selection from his private collection is on display at the Jonathan Edwards College Master’s House. The sculptures are arranged outside on the large patio as well as inside the living room of the house.
One pairing of works in the living room are two bronze wall reliefs, “Wedding I” and “Wedding II,” completed this year.
According to Lisa Tremper Hanover, director of the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, part of Anthonisen’s success lies “picking a moment in the story” of lives to represent. These moments are singular instances and places in time and in the lives of individuals.
This momentary nature comes out in the Wedding reliefs. Here exists a feeling of stillness placed within the swirling chaos of the surrounding wedding party. Individual couples are captured each as if in their own tranquil scene separate from the masses around them. One pair, a boy and a girl, gaze at each other in the middle of the dancing crowd.
Another couple dances. One can see the hips caught in the movement of swaying to the music. In this moment, these two lovers appear to be transported to a place that is entirely their own. In capturing this fragment of time, Anthonisen expresses a level of connection. It may be a connection that vanishes afterwards, but for the moment he captures, these individuals have become part of pairs who inhabit partially their own distinct realm.
As Anthonisen explained in a JE Master’s Tea, one of his earlier sculptures, “I Set Before You This Day,” also strives to capture a sense of individual moments. This time the moment expresses a different intent. Here the artist attempts to capture individuals confronted by the decision of whether to aid those in desperate need. Anthonisen draws from source material of the Nazi persecution of Jews, however these individuals have a more universal story to tell as well. Each wrestles with the decision — and more importantly the sacrifice — to aid the persecuted.
The piece references the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, who in “The Burghers of Calais” depicted another set of individuals preparing to sacrifice in order to save others. Anthonisen strikes a more morbid tone in his work of a corpse lying on the ground of the sculpture, almost under the feet of the individuals depicted.
Another recurrent theme in Anthonisen’s work is the pairing of the serene and chaotic. This idea can be seen even in the basic structure of some of his sculptures, where the smooth figure of an individual suddenly meets with rougher bronze, undefined and suggesting chaos.
This sense of serenity is a more central theme in Anthonisen’s later work. His earlier works, also on display in JE, evoke much darker tones.
For instance, Anthonisen’s work “Death and Starvation”, as its title indicates, strikes a morbid note of loss. Yet here is also a sense of relationship between a cruelly hooded figure who holds a starved corpse, almost in the way one would hold a child.