Like many Americans in 1968, Umlauf was transfixed by the first televised coverage in color of the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. Inspired by Peggy Fleming's grace, he paid homage to her with this bronze balanced on a single blade. The 19-year-old Fleming won the only gold medal for the United States.
French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s Kiss (1889) inspired Umlauf’s own version. Where Rodin’s figures occupy a compact space, Umlauf extended the female figure’s leg dramatically. The Kiss evolved through a progression of sizes; first as a small study, then a 22 inch scale model, and finally this full-size piece.
Hope of Humanity
This is the scale model for a 12’6” sculpture commissioned by the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Umlauf documented the entire process with photos for the book, The Sculpture and Drawing of Charles Umlauf (1980, University of Texas Press).
St. Francis with Birds
Charles Umlauf repeatedly returned to the theme of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. The sculptor himself positioned this large Francis, sparrows at his feet, to face toward the Garden's bronze animals.
Eve's uplifted arms are traditionally interpreted as shielding her eyes from God's wrath after the Fall, yet here her pose is more ambiguous, with a softness and vulnerability characteristic of Umlauf's 1960s and early 1970s period.
Mother & Child
One of Umlauf's favorite subjects, in both secular and religious interpretations, was the mother and child. The upward gaze is also characteristic of many of his sculptures and drawings. This is among a handful of works in the Garden with a brown patina.
This figure, in a traditional habit and hood, stands with her eyes closed and hands clasped together in prayer. A cross on a rosary is incised into the bronze of her garment.
Standing Figure - Darlene
Darlene was one of Professor Umlauf's favorite models in the 1970s. The Museum also owns a drawing and bronze bust of Darlene, who is easily recognized by her strong cheekbones. This is one of four portraits in the Garden.
This is one of many versions of the Lovers, a series consisting of Lovers I-X. Lovers V began with a 9 inch preliminary sketch that was enlarged to a 22 inch scale model and then finally into a life-size work. Umlauf frequently used this progression of sizes to work out design problems that might occur when casting a life-size work.
Eve with Apple
Cast in Pietrasanta, Italy, this Eve’s face is based on one of Umlauf’s favorite models, Nancy. The Museum also owns a 51” casting, frequently on view in the Gallery.
Bambino su Cuscino
Umlauf titled this work only in Italian, a reflection of his dedication to working in Italy every summer. He used an unusual patina to make the sculpture appear golden. With four boys of his own, the artist diplomatically called this “everyone's” baby rather than identifying it as a specific child.
Come Unto Me
This bronze bas-relief is the one-quarter size model for the central panel above the entrance doors to Christ Episcopal Church in San Antonio. In bas-relief (meaning “low” relief), the sculptor carves directly into a flat surface of clay to reveal only one side of a figure or image.
The nude figure stands en pointe with her chest thrust forward, head tilted back and her arms bent backward as they graze her long hair. Because of the grace of their movement and the sculptural quality of their bodies, ballerinas are a favorite subject of artists.
This small-scale model is the first sculpture in the artist’s 1970s Lovers series. The heavily modeled surface reveals traces of the rough textured clay in the finished bronze.
From his many trips to the Chicago Zoo during his youth, Umlauf was inspired by the shape of the rhinoceros. Note the acute detail in this small-scale creature, whose horn has become shiny from generations of Garden visitors.