His Most Famous Sculpture (The Fountain of Kneeling Youths) – George Minne

Renowned artist, George Minne (1866 – 1941) was a Belgian sculptor, who carved a niche in the non-traditional portrayal of ‘man.’ Most of his works focused on the depiction of the disharmony and the inner struggles in a man’s life. Until this era, the male depiction focused mainly on mythological or amorous subjects. Year 1900 through 1914 was the time, when sculptors were trying to break away from the old and embracing the new. Like his contemporaries, Minne’s works were the representations of modernity and captured the essence of adolescence. George’s signature works include a series of kneeling male youths, of which, “The Fountain of Kneeling Youths” is the most acclaimed sculpture.

It was first featured in the year 1900, at the Eighth Succession exhibition. First designed in 1898, this work was produced in plaster, bronze, and marble versions. “The Fountain of Kneeling Youths” features five nude young men gathered in a circle and looking at the fountain in the centre. This positing of the figures earned it the reputation of ‘Narcissus Fountain.’ The sculpture by Minne is remarkable for its lean and angular figures that kneel with a perfect balance on their respective raised platforms. These sleek and tall structures bend towards right at the waistline. The shoulders and head are also bending in the same direction. The straight positioning of the knees and the mid-section of the upper torso counterbalance the centre of gravity of the statues. Additional balance is provided by the lower part of the legs that lie flat on their bases. It is not just the equilibrium, but also the simplistic linear make up of the bodies of the boys that indicate the geometrical efficiency of Minne’s work. The original piece was cast in plaster and the statues were set on the rim of the fountain. George displayed a masterstroke in placing such bending, asymmetrical figures on the rim, with such completeness.

George Minne’s kneeling youths have their arms folded up to their shoulder joints, as if craving for support and trying to withdraw from the world. Their bent heads present the youths in conflicting thoughts, adding a poignant emotional appeal to the work. What sets Minne’s working style apart is the subtle, yet powerful expression of the deepest human sentiments. Leaving behind the artistically ideal portrayal of youth and vitality, the kneeling youths became the protagonists of challenges of the contemporary youngsters. The force of innovation and refreshing quality of “The Fountain of Kneeling Youths” is so strong, that veteran art critic, Julius Meier-Graefe termed it as, ‘the first sculpture of our new age.’