Carl Milles was a towering figure in Swedish sculpture in the first half of the twentieth century. His early politically committed style eventually turned more classical. From 1915 on, as Swedish urban culture began to develop significantly, he was commissioned to sculpt a number of public fountains.
The city of Gothenburg wanted a Poseidon fountain for its main square. Milles produced an eight-meter-tall statue of the sea god, flanked by a host of naiads and tritons. Since Antiquity, Zeus’s water nymph daughters, known as naiads, and the sons of Poseidon and Amphitrite, known as tritons, had been regular fixtures on fountains in the grounds of luxurious Roman villas. Milles was fascinated by Greek and Roman sculpture and was himself a significant collector. Here, he gives his own particularly joyful interpretation of the traditional iconography. His water gods are playful, splashing figures straddling bucking dolphins. They do not form a composed group, but rather are dotted around the basin. The Poseidon fountain was such a success that Milles decided to edit some of the figures in bronze for sale as standalone works.
Milles’s Triton shows a voluptuous approach to figures both human and animal, captured in their fullest, liveliest plenitude. Milles is often described as an innovative traditionalist, devoted to figurative and narrative art and inspired by themes and styles from the classical repertoire, yet interpreting them in his own inimitable way and keen to rise to new technical challenges, striving particularly to create the illusion that his sculptures are floating in mid-air.
Catherine Lepdor and Jörg Zutter (eds.), La collection du Dr Henri-Auguste Widmer au Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1998: 72, n. 257.
Erika Billeter, Chantal Michetti-Prod’Hom et alii, Sculptures du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts Lausanne. Œuvres choisies, Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1990: 72-73.