Large “portrait busts” being assembled on Nelson-Atkins lawn

Courtesy Nelson-Atkins. Artists rendering.

Courtesy Nelson-Atkins. Artist’s rendering.

At the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art this week, tractor trailers will be pulling up and assembling four large “portrait busts” using a crane, forklift and cherry picker.

Workers will then put together 15-foot-tall sculptures created by Philip Haas, a contemporary artist and filmmaker.  The busts, entitled The Four Seasons, will be installed on the south lawn of the museum over the course of the week.

Haas’s 15-foot-tall sculptures are three-dimensional interpretations of the Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s portrait series of the same name.

Here’s more from the Nelson-Atkins:

As in Arcimboldo’s paintings, the physical features of the four sculpted figures are rendered in botanical forms appropriate to each season. Spring is a profusion of brightly colored flowers. The man’s cheeks are rose blossoms, petals hang from tulip earlobes and he wears a coat of green leaves with a collar of daisies. His broad smile expresses the joy of the season. In contrast, Winter suggests the barrenness of that time of year through the figure’s headdress of twisted tree limbs and ivy and face of a gnarled grey tree trunk devoid of foliage. Winter’s brow is furrowed and he is frowning. The Four Seasons acknowledge nature’s rhythmic cycles and yet as sculptural portraits of people, they further represent the natural aging process from youth to old age.

“Whether I’m working in painting, sculpture or film, what fascinates me is the idea of metamorphosis,” said Haas. “Through The Four Seasons, I am re-contextualizing the world of classical Renaissance portraiture using the transformative elements of scale, material and dimensionality, thereby altering the viewer’s perspective.”

“The theatrical quality of The Four Seasons is enhanced by the Nelson-Atkins building, which serves as the perfect ‘stage set’ for the marvelous portrait busts,” said Leesa Fanning, curator of contemporary art. “The surprising reconfiguration of the human form through plant materials, as well as the monumental scale of the highly detailed fiberglass sculptures, will delight visitors of all ages.”

Visitors are free to wander in and around the monumental sculptures. Smaller maquettes (scale models) of The Four Seasons will be on view inside the museum.

Adults will enjoy a special presentation by Philip Haas himself on Thursday, May 28, in Atkins Auditorium as he discusses his inspiration and process to transform Renaissance painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo’s iconic Four Seasons into monumental, three-dimensional sculptures.

The fun, playful nature of Philip Haas: The Four Seasons creates thematic inspiration for a wide range of summer studio classes for visitors of all ages. Registration is now available.

The sculptures will serve as a backdrop for the museum’s largest summer festival, the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park Celebration and Kansas City’s Big Picnic, Sunday evening July 19, 4-7 p.m.

Also for adults, the museum will provide an opportunity to discover another art form by Philip Haas—a sampling of the motion pictures he has directed.  The museum will screen these as part of a Friday-night series in July.  Check for dates and details on all events.


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