It was during the last stages of the Paleolithic period that man first sculpted the image of an animal. The famous Bison of La Madelaine in France dates c.15,000 B.C. The men of that time did not differentiate between the likeness of the animal and the animal itself. Their art played an integral part in their magic, since they believed that in destroying the image they had created, they could kill the spirit of the real animal. So at this time animal art played a vital survival and only a secondarily aesthetic role.
In most modern civilizations, hunting no longer is a primary activity in supplying food, and of course neither does the portrayal of animals bear upon such activity, nor have any magical significance per se. As the purpose of the hunt evolved into sport, so has the creation of animal images assumed a different significance. The carving and modeling of animal forms has become a way of expressing the relationship between man and animal, as well as of symbolizing certain forces both through traditional associations and through formal means. The relationship between man and those natural forces embodied in animals have preoccupied most of the Yugoslav sculptors at one time or another, and some of them have devoted a great deal of their creative talent to animal motifs. Although the variety of animals that they deal with is vast, those associated with man and/or with traditional symbolic values seem to predominate: bulls, horses, deer, birds, and fish.
Through his animal subjects, Risto Stijovic has given vitality to his medium. His animal sculptures have a sensuous and lyrical appeal both of form and material. He successfully exploits grain as well as other physical properties of his material for his forms. His work is imbued with a gentle spirit of love for all of nature: His art glorifies life in its simple and primeval form, which seems to have arisen from poetry and for poetry. All these wooden figures of women, and little stone forms of animals, are proof of the internal truth that there is no art without simplicity, or life without poetry. This has been the basic program of Stijovic's sculpture and the credo of his whole creative work.1
Stijovic's birds especially radiate a tenderness. In the Eaglet (Fig. 70), he allows himself to be guided by the natural configuration of the exotic wood, creating a vital relationship between the subject and the material as well as a rhythmic energy. This emphasis on the expressive qualities inherent in the material is more pronounced in the artist's animal sculpture than in his female figures.
Almost iconic in its pyramidal disposition, the Eaglet expresses a calm, enduring spirit enhanced by the material itself. The gleaming smooth surface makes one imagine a hypothetical early stage of one of Brancusi's Bird in Space series. An alert physiognomic expression prevents the creature from appearing in any way static.
The historical source for. Nandor Glid's Apotheosis of Pain (Fig. 71) could be traced to expressionistic Constructivism; it is more emotional and less formally analytical, however. Glid shows only the supine skeleton of an animal, elevated painfully and awkwardly into space by a small rectangular form attaching it to its base. The concave, open skeletal form resembles Alberto Giacommetti's surrealist sculpture Woman with Her Throat Cut both in form and pathetic connotations. The volume of the form is much less than that of the space it encloses; this feature clearly embodies (or disembodies) Glid's artistic principle of abandoning traditional considerations of weight and balance and of opening up the form to allow air to circulate inside as well as out.
The continuity of outline in this work is broken by the sharp angles suggestive of the animal's knees, ribs, and jaws. This broken line excites the curiosity and invites the viewer to explore the open interior. Joint‑like angles create the silhouette. They result from the concave and convex reduced forms which create a constant flux of surface and place the piece in a state of perpetual animation along whose lines the eye flows. Since the actual volume of the piece is minimal, the viewer's imagination must "complete" the work: by mentally stretching surfaces and planes in space among the outlines of the existing skeleton, the viewer partakes in the physical creation of Glid's creature.
Milivoje Bokic is guided by the natural arrangement of tree roots and field stones in his forms, deriving artistic meaning and shape from what he finds ready‑made in nature. In some cases, tree roots have, over a period of time, grasped pieces of rock and become attached to them, forming landscape‑type patterns. These natural creations have been taken and given order by the artist. Nature is responsible for the existence and combination of materials, while Bokic imbues them with artistic meaning.
The Bull (Fig. 72) is a composition of dense volumes where stone and wood penetrate and overlap each other in a turbulent movement. The wood seems to hold the stone as if in the palm of a hand. The stone is carved into the face and horns of a bull, while its body is suggested by the massive forms of the wood surrounding it which seem to imprison it.
The stride of the once forceful legs now struggles to bring the body forward, while the rock that resembles the head hesitates, aware of danger. As in the arena, the bull metallic sheaths are wings, the two smallest triangles inside the wings are beaks, and the strange accordian‑type series of circles become an organic device like bellows, propelling the wings. The open space between the wings lightens the piece so that it more suggestively portrays its theme. The bird's strange balance, monumentality, and symmetry glitter in space in a free‑standing structure which once again invokes Brancusils Bird in Space as an inspiration or touchstone. For Logo, too, the bird becomes the vehicle for the expression of dynamism and purity. As indicated earlier, animals are exploited by the sculptor both for their expressive associations as well as the formal qualities of their natural configuration.
l.Lazar Trifunovic, "Risto Stijovic," Umetnost XX (1969): 43.