Rosso, Medardo (1858–1928) By Hecker, Sharon
Medardo Rosso was a pivotal yet enigmatic figure for the origin and development of modern European sculpture. In his fewer than 50 original subjects cast in plaster, wax, and bronze, he represented emotionally charged glimpses of introverted, sick, laughing, anxious, or smiling heads and figurines, especially of women, children, and the elderly. By modulating sculpture’s surfaces, he made his diaphanously modelled images receptive to subtle changes of light, expressing a radical idea of ‘dematerialising’ the three-dimensional object, as if it were subject to the influence of time and its surrounding atmosphere. Rosso began his career in Milan but spent three decades in Paris and was naturalised as a French citizen before returning to Milan in his final years. He was considered the founder of ‘Impressionist sculpture’, although his works also reflect the influence of Realism and Symbolism. In France, critics believed he was Auguste Rodin’s unacknowledged rival in the birth of modern sculpture and an influence on the 1898 Monument to Balzac. In Italy, he was hailed as the forefather of Futurism, prefiguring their experiments with movement and speed. Today, contemporary artists admire his precocious interest in materials and creative casting that left evidence of artistic process on his works.