David Finn has had an outstanding career as a widely published and exhibited artist, writer and photographer. Known as a leading photographer of sculpture, Mr. Finn has published more than 100 books devoted to works from different periods of history, including ancient Egypt, classical Greece and western art from the 12th –21st centuries. Author Alfred Kazin has written that "no one comes close to him as a photographer, and Sir Kenneth Clark has called Mr. Finn "a photographer of genius."
Mr. Finn's photographs and paintings have been shown in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, L'Orangerie, Paris, the American Cultural Center in Madrid, the Art Gallery of Toronto, the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University, the Municipal Art Society in New York, and in various galleries in New York, Chicago and London.
INTRODUCTION BY DAVID FINN
PHOTOGRAPHER FOR 3 OF BRUNO’S BOOKS
An unusually modest man, Bruno Lucchesi becomes embarrassed when someone praises his work too highly. He believes he knows what great sculpture is, and despite the enthusiasm of his admirers he prefers to think of his work as something different. When people tell him that his sculptures are among the most important of our time, he shrugs off the compliment. He is a man without pretensions. He knows that he is skilled at what he does, but great is a word he would prefer to reserve for the sculptors he reveres Donatello, Michelangelo, Cellini, Bernini.
Shaping his figures in his studio is like breathing for him. He goes there early in the morning and stays there till the end of day, working alone. His are the only fingers that touch the clay or plaster; he has no assistants. Yet there is such a demand for his sculptures that commissions come to him in an almost constant stream. He wins most of the competitions he enters and always has friends or collectors who ask him to create something new for them. He is also continually working on sculptures for his own pleasure. He says he works harder on them than on commissions because the person he has to please is himself. His studios and homes in Florence and New York are filled with the sculptures he has done for himself, and they are among his best.
For many years, Bella Fishko, the founder of the well-known Forum Gallery in New York, would have regular exhibitions of Bruno’s work, and they were always successful. After Bella died, her son Bob ran the gallery and was always eager to continue this tradition with continued exhibitions of Bruno’s new work. But in recent years, Bruno has been so busy with his commissions that he felt that he did not have the time to produce a body of work that would be appropriate. One of the few exhibitions organized in recent years was in the galleries of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) in Bridgeport, Conn. It was that exhibition that inspired the publication of this book.
Bruno’s lovely wife, Ann, a gifted sculptor herself, had arranged the exhibition in what had been her home town. When Ann talked to me about taking the photographs for a new book on Bruno’s work (I had published an earlier book some years ago), I was delighted with the idea. With that in mind, I photographed all the works in the Bridgeport exhibition, none of which I had seen before. Then I went to Bruno’s studio and to his home in New York and photographed some more of his sculptures I had never seen. I also went to the homes of some recent collectors who had acquired some of his works, and to a number of sites where he had created public sculptures. By the time I was finished I knew there were clearly enough photographs for this book.
When thinking about writing this introductory essay, I asked myself what kind of judgment I might make about the importance of Bruno’s work. I knew that this was not a question that would interest Bruno; he would rather just continue to do his work without giving any thought to his place in history. But as one who has photographed the work of many contemporary sculptors, including Moore, Marini, Lachaise, Chillida and others, I found myself wondering how to describe my impressions of Bruno’s work.
There are those who would make a distinction between figurative and abstract sculpture and place Bruno at the top of the list of the figurative sculptors of our time. I consider that an arbitrary distinction. What matters is the sculptural quality of the work. It is worth noting that there was even a time in Bruno’s life when he thought he should follow the trend of contemporary art and experiment with abstract forms, but he didn’t feel comfortable doing so and soon reverted to natural representations of the human figure, which was his passion. I remember Henry Moore telling me of a friend of his who had been a promising naturalistic painter until he decided to change his style to keep up with the times and thereby lost his ability to do good work. An artist, Moore said, should follow his or her inner instincts and not try to become someone else in an effort to be successful. Bruno came to the same conclusion, and for years he has been following his inner creative instincts, creating sculpture after sculpture that gives expression to what he finds beautiful in the world around him.
Bruno’s sculptor’s eye finds nothing more moving than the human figure. The people he loves to portray have an indescribable quality about them. They twist and turn in intriguing postures to show viewers what Bruno finds delightful about their bodies and their beings. They may be fat or thin, old or young, clothed or unclothed – they are all wonderful to behold. There is something magical about them that seem to come out of Bruno’s heart. One feels that he loves the people he portrays, indeed that he loves life in all its aspects, and his fingers and sculptor’s tools reveal that love.
Bruno has a special relish for the female nude. He has portrayed her in almost every conceivable pose, and each one has a special charm. Sometimes he uses a model and sometimes he portrays a figure from imagination. Often he invents a position that a model could not possibly hold for more than an instant, and yet he manages to calculate the way gravity would act on the body and what the stance would look like if it could be held indefinitely. He even has shown figures flying in the air that somehow are convincing and look as if he actually observed models in such a position.
In a sense these figures in unusual positions are Bruno’s private sculptures, for they were created without any particular audience in mind. They were not intended for exhibitions or commissions. Bruno created them just because he wanted to create them, and when they were finished he put them in a corner of his studio or even in storage. But it was the quality of some of those works standing in his studio that led to one of Bruno’s most ambitious public projects, the creation of a series of seven sculptures to represent the values of the textile company, Springs Industries.
I had taken Walter Elisha, the Chairman and CEO of the company, to visit Bruno’s studio, and he was amazed to see the human quality of the work displayed there. They reminded him of the values that he thought were intrinsic in the tradition of Springs as a
family company that was over 100 years old. Walter told Bruno about those values: Quality, Creativity, Education, Service, Family, Respect for History, Planning for the Future. He explained that they had been identified in connection with a program called The Springs of Achievement, a play of words based on the name of the company. Springs was the name of the family that founded the company, but the word springs had other meanings – springs from the ground, a coiled spring, springing into the air. All these had to do with energy, ambition, and fulfillment. And so the idea of The Springs of Achievement program had been created to give new meaning to the name of the company. Its goal was to highlight the seven values that were inherent in its tradition.
When Walter saw the sculptures in Bruno’s studio, he thought it would be wonderful if a series of sculptures could be created to represent the seven values of The
Springs of Achievement, and that these could be placed on the landscaped grounds of the company headquarters in South Carolina. Bruno was delighted with the idea, and the project soon got under way.
The first sculpture Bruno worked on was a figure representing Quality. He created several maquettes that in Bruno’s mind expressed that value. Walter and I came to Bruno’s studio to look at the maquettes, and Walter expressed his views as to which figure seemed most appropriate. Bruno welcomed his thoughts, and when the agreed upon image was selected; Bruno began to work on the life-size version. Periodically Walter and I came to the studio to see how it was developing. Bruno encouraged Walter to express his opinions of the sculpture, and when Walter did so, Bruno made appropriate changes in the clay figure. Bruno was, in effect, inviting Walter to participate in the creative process, and Walter was delighted to do so.
This first sculpture turned out to be one of Bruno’s remarkable expressions of space. The life-size figure of a woman was examining an extended roll of cloth hanging from an invisible source above. He perfectly expressed the company’s commitment to quality in its products while at the same time creating a memorable image of the process by which quality was guaranteed to Springs’customers.
Finding the right place for the sculpture on the company grounds was an important step in the process. Bruno and I made a special trip to South Carolina to walk around the park-like area with Walter and consider several possibilities. Finally Walter picked a spot that was at the beginning of the property, so that when cars drove by this would be one of the first images they would see. The sculpture had already been delivered and was temporarily placed in a storage area; I had brought my camera with me and was able to take a series of photographs of it that we used for a little brochure explaining the Springs of Achievement concept and why the sculpture was created. The brochure was given to visitors to the headquarters.
When Quality was unveiled on the company’s grounds, there was a ceremony attended by Springs associates and Walter wanted Bruno to comment on the meaning of the image. Bruno hates making speeches, so instead Bruno and I had a conversation in front of a microphone about different aspects of the sculpture. I pointed out that Bruno always paid attention to details that might not be apparent to a casual passerby, and that people should take notice of the way the hair of the woman was shaped, the folds of the cloth she was holding in her hands, her shoes. I also urged people to walk around the sculpture and see how it looked from different angles. Bruno chimed in as I made my remarks, calling attention to other details. After the ceremony, I spent some time with my camera taking photographs of the sculpture from different angles, and some of those shots were later used in an adverting campaign for the company.
It took almost a year for Bruno to complete the sculpture on Quality, after which Bruno began working on the second in the series, which was Family. Once again, Walter and I visited Bruno’s studio several times to discuss models that Bruno had done, and developing the concept was a cooperative effort. A little child was walking from her mother to her father, both of whom held their outstretched arms to show their affection. In the first version the child was a boy, but since it was as if he had just taken a bath and was learning to walk, he was nude Walter thought that might be a problem, so Bruno made it a little girl. It turned out to be a delightful composition, and Walter felt it expressed the company tradition so beautifully that he decided to place it on the lawn in front of the main office building.
The other sculptures followed in order. On several of them, Bruno had to do some research to make sure the figures were authentic. For instance, the agreed upon concept for Planning for the Future consisted of two figures, a surveyor looking through his surveying instrument at a girl some distance away holding up her rod. Bruno had to study the design of the instrument included in the sculpture as well as the stance of the two figures in real life. For Education Walter thought Bruno should show an African American woman with gown and cap holding up her diploma, and Bruno had to study the facial features and hairdo of African Americans to make sure the image was correct. For History Bruno decided he wanted to represent the founder and he had to look at portraits of him in order to represent his features correctly. The second figure in that sculpture was a student holding a book in one hand and looking up at the founder; as a surprise, Bruno wrote Springs of Achievement as the title of the book, and Walter Elisha as the author.
One of the most difficult subjects to work out was Service. Bruno came up with a number of different ideas, but Walter didn’t think any of them were right. Finally Walter suggested an image of three men climbing a wall. One would already be on top, crouched, with outstretched hands. The second would be in the process of climbing up the wall, reaching up to grab hold of one of his friend’s hands. The third would be standing on the ground pushing up the foot of the one who was climbing. Bruno was delighted with the idea and managed to figure out what the posture of all three would be. He designed the wall as a cement plinth to be made on the spot, and the sculpture was placed on a hillside near one of the buildings.
Creativity was the last in the series, and in order to make that real, Bruno visited the company facility where artists were creating fabric designs. As a result he was able to show a woman working at her desk, while a man standing next to her held a palette filled with colored paint, which she reached for with her brush.. It was raining the day it was installed in a little patio outside the main building, and the ceremony was held indoors with the sculpture visible through a large glass wall. Everybody present felt it was the climax of a great adventure and that the series had been an historic contribution to the history and future of the company.
Another major sculptural project followed the Springs series. Peter Scotese had been CEO of Springs Industries before Walter Elisha, and Pete thought the Springs of Achievement series had been a wonderful project. After it was completed, Pete had the idea of creating a sculpture of the grounds of an orphan’s home and school in Philadelphia which was his alma mater. He brought Bruno down to see the grounds and buildings, and together with the head of the school they conceived the idea to create a monument to be placed in front of the main building honoring the founder. It was a very large group sculpture and it took Bruno a couple of years to complete. He showed the founder standing in the center with outstretched hands, with five young people standing around him in various positions. Each figure represented a different aspect of the school’s program and was of a different race to show the diversity of the student population. One of the figures showed Pete himself as a student based on photographs of him as a teenager. When the sculpture was finished, everybody connected with the school was thrilled, and Pete considered the sculpture a masterpiece.
It has been a joy to photograph Bruno’s work, both his private and his public sculptures, because of its inventiveness and its warmth. I can always find angles and details that strike me as surprising discoveries, and looking through the camera lens, I feel as if I have come to love the people he has portrayed as much as he did when he created them. That has made working on this book a superb adventure for which I am most grateful -- to Bruno for the privilege of photographing his sculptures, and to Ann whose idea it was to publish this book.