American bronze casting is an integral part of the story of great US art. In fact a fine bronze casting is often the state gift of choice from the US Government to world leaders. However, while the tradition of casting bronze into works of art has been part of the Asian, African and European cultures for centuries, American craftsmen didn’t develop the necessary skills for bronze casting until quite late in the day.
Until the middle of the Nineteenth Century American sculptures were commonly made in marble, but by the end of the 1800s America had the foundries and craftsmen they needed for bronze casting, and work began to create grand public monuments and works for the home, including bonze sculptures.
Some of the earliest examples of American bronzes came from Henry Kirke Brown. By the 1840s his small Brooklyn foundry was turning out fine works of art. His partnership with the Ames Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts, famous for producing military equipment, led to the creation of some important monuments. In fact Brown’s naturalistic style influenced many artists who followed him, like John Quincy Adams Ward.
Other foundries and makers sprang up from those seeds planted by Brown, with Amoroux, John Williams, and Henry-Bonnard creating a hub of skilled foundrymen in New York. Many of the great bronzes in American art have taken a patriotic form, often depicting frontiersmen and heroes of the American West. The vivid works of Frederic Remington are wonderful examples of this.
By the turn of the century displays of bronzes in galleries like Tiffany and Company created an appetite for replicas among ordinary people, and Remington’s most famous bronze casting, Bronco Buster, was one of the first to be reproduced for that market. But Remington’s work isn’t just to be found in everyday homes. A bronze casting of Bronco Buster has been enjoyed by every White House incumbent since Teddy Roosevelt.
Production of fine art bronzes came to a standstill during the Great War, but the era that followed, the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco periods, was a renaissance for bronze casting. The tactile nature of the material, the capacity for lovely, skin-like finishes, and the intricacy that could be achieved in bronze, lent themselves to Art Nouveau nature studies and to the stylised human forms of Art Deco. Paul Manship’s Hoop Girl is one of the beauties of American bronze casting during the Nouveau period.