Edward McCartan (I) – The gentle eroticism

Edward Francis McCartan (August, 1879 – September, 1947) was an American sculptor, best known for his bronzes of Art-Déco style, popular in the 1920s.
Born in Albany, New York, he studied at the Pratt Institute and at the Art Students League of New York, and then in Paris for three years before his return to the United States in 1910. In 1914, McCartan became the Director of the Sculpture Department of the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York City.
Posthumously honored by the National Sculpture Society, his public monuments were few -but the Eugene Field Memorial (“Winken, Blinken, and Nod” also know as “The Dream Lady”) can still be found in the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago.

Other works can be seen at Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, and the Grosse Pointe War Memorial in Michigan. New Jersey Bell Headquarters Building -a national historic site in Newark- New Jersey, includes pilasters by the artist. He worked on a pediment for the Department of Labor Building, in 1934 to 1935. He died in New Rochelle, New York, in 1947.

Girl Drinking from a Shell (c. 1915 – Reading Public Museum, Pennsylvania) is one of his more beautiful sculptures; two versions exist -the master plaster and the bronze-, and many, more or less accomplished, copies of them, in different materials, sizes and hues, have been made since the 1920’s until nowadays. Not surprisingly, since the statue has a most captivating appeal.

It figures a girl in her puberty, standing up. In the hair, she wears flowers (seemingly roses) and a hair band, which lend the depiction a playful aura. Carefully, she drinks from a large shell while she inquisitively looks at the observer. This playful girlishness is in clear contrast to the erotic pose and, to a point, to the unveiled nakedness of the body.

With this statue, more than with any other by him, the artist created a truly enthralling beauty, merging a gentle -but effective- eroticism with naturalness and youthful ingenuousness.

Girl Drinking from a Shell (c.1915, plaster master version)

Girl Drinking from a Shell (1915 – detail of the bronze original)

Among the numerous existing copies and versions (some of them signed by the artist), there are a few which deserve attention, and I post here two of them:


Girl Drinking from a Shell (full-sized fountain version – bronze)

Girl Drinking from a Shell (fountain version; clean)

Girl Drinking … (fountain version – detail of head and shell)

One of the several reduced bronze versions, as a decorative statuette – in three different views:

A second post about Edward F. McCartan on this blog can be seen over here:

Edward McCartan (II) – Some daring elegance



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