Bhirasri, Silpa (1892–1962) By Chotpradit, Thanavi
Silpa Bhirasri (born Corrado Feroci) was an Italian sculptor and the first principal of Silpakorn University (formerly the School of Fine Arts, known as Rongrian Praneetsilpakam and Rongrian Silpakorn). He was a pivotal figure in the institutional development of modern art in Thailand in the 1930s and 1940s. As a state-hired sculptor who had resided in Siam (now Thailand) since the time of absolute monarchy, he sculpted the figure of King Vajiravudh (reigned 1910–1926) in 1925 in a classical style. After the 1932 Revolution, classical art, which had been the royal taste, was replaced with a stark classicism that emphasized the strong body and exaggerated muscles that one may also find in Fascist art. Bhirasri’s interests in classicism shifted in direction from naturalism to stark-realism after 1932 when art patronage changed hands from the court to the commoners’ government. His design for the bases of Democracy Monument depicting the scenes from the 1932 Revolution and Thais’ working lives showed this style of muscular bodies and was likely inspired by M. Piacentini’s The Arch of Victory in Italy. He was later honored by the state as the “Father of Thai modern art” and as the founder of the art education system.