Sunday, April 13, 2014


Located just south of downtown, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is one of Austin's cultural gems.  The garden space is relatively small but beautifully landscaped, providing a nice backdrop for the sculptures, which were all created by Charles Umlauf (1910-1994), who gifted the sculptures and the grounds to the city of Austin in 1985.  The grounds include a small museum that currently displays works both by Umlauf and by one of his contemporaries, Charles Williams.  Williams's work is more abstract and, because it was not available for photography, is not included in this post.

Umlauf's works are generally more representational, many of them featuring religious figures or the female form.  I thought the artist had great talent for expressing emotion, which he accomplished through posture, facial expression, and in some cases exaggerated features.

The first example, entitled Madonna & Child, is actually one of the artist's more abstract works.

I thought this, as well several others of the pieces I shot, worked better as black & whites.

Following is a more representational piece, entitled Spirit of Flight.

The sculpture includes the full figure.  However, I wanted to emphasize the detail in the figure's body and wings, as well as the expression on his face, so I included only the figure's upper right "quadrant."

Here is another piece, entitled Crucifixion, that I also shot only a portion of.  Again, I thought much of the detail would be sacrificed in an attempt to include the entire piece in the photo.  So I chose a critical portion, an arm and palm nailed to the cross.

One of the most powerful pieces was entitled War Mother.  Here I did take a shot of the entire sculpture, but for this post I have chosen to show a couple of detail shots.  The first is of the mother's face and hand, the latter of which is quite exaggerated ins size.

And the second is of the child, again with exaggerated hands.

This figure was made of a light colored cast stone, and I felt the images worked better in black & white.

Not all of the sculptures were of human figures.  A number were of animals, including this hippo, entitled Lotus.

However, it seemed that the animal figures were actually too faithful in their realism and lacked the emotion that the sculptor was able to incorporate into his human figures, as shown in the following female figures, respectively titled  Eve, Ballerina, Mother & Child, and Supplication.

One of my favorite pieces was entitled Refugees.  I thought the artist did a superb job of evoking the mother's stoicism.

Here's another shot in black & white of the mother's face in profile.

Nearly all of these photos were shot with my lens at a wide open aperture of f/4.  I have decided that this allows me to maintain adequate focus with the object while blurring out the background.

It was a real pleasure photographing these sculptures, and there were many other pieces that I could have included in this post.  Certainly, anyone interested in the arts who visits Austin should not miss a trip to this venue.


1 comment:

  1. Great pictures, John. I love the sculptures. Such detail you captured. Thanks for sharing