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Texture refers to the surface quality or "feel" of an object, its smoothness, roughness, softness, etc, that is, texture is the way something feels when you touch it.


Textures may be actual (through the laying on of oils on the surface of the canvas for example) or implied (suggested by the way an artist has created the image).




Introduction to Modern European Art Rosso

Medardo Rosso, Ecce Puer, 1906

In his lifetime, the Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso was rivaled by Auguste Rodin, whom he is said to have influenced, and revered by Umberto Boccioni, whose Futurist notions of simultaneity and motion he disavowed.


Although Rosso's reputation never matched these artists, he remained in the forefront of modern sculpture from the 1880s to the early 1900s.


His last sculpture, Ecce Puer (Behold the Child), was produced in 1906 in London, where that year the artist had a one-man show. It is a commissioned portrait of Alfred William Mond, a British boy of about five or six years old.


Rosso's style has been called Impressionist because light and air dematerialize form. However, unlike the Impressionist painters who recorded visual sensations directly from nature, Rosso's images are a synthesis of memory and emotion. Ecce Puer, for example, was produced after only a brief glimpse of the boy peeking through a parted curtain.


Working through the night, the artist completed a seemingly "unfinished" head that captures the transitory moment. It is meant to be seen from a fixed vantage point, rather than in the round. Upon its completion, Rosso described the head as "a vision of purity in a banal world."

Implied texture gives a visual sense of how an object would feel in real life if touched and is achieved through colour, line and shading (think of an animal’s fur, or a silk blouse for example). 

Texture also adds to the emotion of a work, with Brancusi's Bird in Space having a sensuous feel, Arp's painted wood is more mischievous, and Soutine's thickly layed painting adds to the horror of the work.


Introduction to Modern European Art Arp

Jean Arp, Shirtfront and Fork, 1922 (painted wood)

From 1922 Arp was producing a bizarre array of figurative elements-lips, noses, navels, shoes, shirtfronts, forks - imagery probably encouraged by his association with the cafe society into which he was welcomed in Paris both as a poet and artist.


The elements of this 'object language', as Arp referred to his new style, are often set in strange juxtaposition, and encourage a comic ambiguity.


In Shirtfront and fork the shirtfront with its two studs, can just as easily be seen as a human face, and the fork as an arm.


The work makes the kind of mischievous comment on social behaviour that Arp relished - the abstract personage seen merely as his proper shirtfront and correctly held fork.

In the Bird in Space works, Brâncuși concentrated not on the physical attributes of the bird, but instead on its movement.


The bird's wings and feathers were eliminated, the swell of the body was elongated, and the head and beak were reduced to a slanted oval plane.

Constantine Brancusi, Bird in Space, 1932-40

Introduction to Modern European Art Brancusi
Introduction to Modern European Art Soutine

Soutine once horrified his neighbours by keeping an animal carcass in his studio so that he could paint it (Carcass of Beef). The stench drove them to send for the police, whom Soutine promptly lectured on the relative importance of art over hygiene.


Soutine painted 10 works in this series, which have since became his most iconic. His carcass paintings were inspired by Rembrandt's still life of the same subject, which he discovered while studying the Old Masters in the Louvre.

Chaim Soutine, Carcass of Beef, c.1924

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