'The Sam Wilson Chimneypiece', executed 1908-13 by English sculptor Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934), is perhaps the most bizarre work in the Leeds Sculpture Collection. Taken as a work of art, rather than a domestic object in a house, the chimneypiece demonstrates that sculpture could approximate a kind of 'story-telling'.
In this remarkable work, the dialogue between sculpture and ornament reveals the extent to which decorative devices had expanded the scope of sculptural language. In this essay, Martina Droth argues that the impossibility of separating the sculptural from the decorative in Gilbert's work suggests that ornament can be part of sculpture - that it can even be sculpture.
This essay is the result of Martina Droth's Research Fellowship at the Henry Moore Institute in 1999-2000.
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