A quick sketch of George Minne’s Kneeling Youth (Kniende Knaben, 1898) from the permanent collection of the Neue Galerie, New York.
The sculpture was originally part of a series, and first exhibited as a set of five arranged in a circle at the Eighth Exhibition of the Secession in 1900 in Vienna, Austria. The two that appear in the Neue Galerie used to belong to Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer (whose famous portrait also features prominently in the museum) until they were confiscated by the Nazis. After a lengthy campaign by the couple’s niece many years afterward, these sculptures and other major artworks were returned to the family and later acquired by the Neue Galerie.
I was drawn to the figures for the contrast in the artists’ sensitive treatment of the subjects with the sharp angularity of the sculpture itself. The arms of the subject are folded protectively in a v shape across his chest, with his head tilted to the right and his chin tucked in to the right. This nude pose, coupled with the subject’s lean and wiry frame, imbues the piece with a feeling of pensiveness and vulnerability. The solid rectangular structure of the base further amplifies the elongated view of the body while providing even greater textural contrast to suggest the frailty and delicateness of the figure above.