Adolf von Hildebrand in his book, The Problem of Form in Painting and Sculpture (1907), emphatically stated, ‘If one would speak, then, of a mission of Art, it can be no other than this: in spite of all temporal eccentricities, to reestablish and make felt the sound and natural relations between our thought and sense activities.’ Through his sculptures Adolf von Hildebrand tried to live up to this ideal lifelong.
Adolf von Hildebrand (October 6, 1847 – January 18, 1921) was Auguste Rodin’s contemporary. A believer in clean and clear form and lines, Hildebrand’s art differed considerably from Rodin’s, though he never failed in admiring Rodin’s work. A trip to Rome in 1867 brought Hildebrand in close association with like minded artists and intellectuals like Hans von Marées and Konrad Fiedler. The influence of viewing masterpieces of earlier centuries from close quarters was profound in itself. The effects were so impactful that Hildebrand decided to set up his base in Florence and worked there uninterrupted for about two decades.
A prolific sculptor, Hildebrand completed a vast amount of portraits, reliefs, monuments and public art projects till incapacitated by an illness in 1910. He enthusiastically engaged himself in teaching young prodigies the nuances of art taking nothing except the charges for buying stone material in return. What he wrote, while comparing the works of Michelangelo with the earlier Greek sculptures, is pertinent to assess his contribution to art that, ‘…all differences of time, circumstance, or individuality are effaced before the general and eternal laws which govern and always will govern artistic creation.’