Raoul Hague

Big Indian Mountain

Black walnut
64× 45 × 49 inches
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Louis V. Bell Fund, 1974
Photography not permitted
Location: ATT West Entrance
GPS: 30.281912,-97.740845

Born of Armenian parents in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1904, Hague came to the United States to further his education, enrolling in Iowa State College in 1921. At that time he changed his name from Heukelekian to Hague. After a year there, he left to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1925, he moved to New York City. Two years later, while studying under William Zorach, Hague began to sculpt in stone. Zorach advocated carving, rather than modeling in plaster or clay for casting into bronze. In an era of increasing mechanization, carving with traditional hand tools reasserted the importance of natural materials and handicraft.

In the 1940s, Hague settled in Woodstock, north of New York City, where he resided for the rest of his life. Shifting away from stone, Hague carved almost exclusively in wood available locally. Increasingly he appreciated the natural shapes of trees and retained them in his finished compositions. Respect for the inherent textures, colors, and shapes of wood remained the focus of Hague’s aesthetics for the rest of his life.

Big Indian Mountain, 1964–65

During the 1960s, Hague’s sculptures became larger and more abstract. The massive flowing forms were considered by some admirers and critics to be a three-dimensional counterpart of the broad, sweeping brushstrokes characteristic of abstract expressionist paintings. The four tilting verticals in Big Indian Mountain can indeed be compared to paintings by Franz Kline, but their origins lie in the branching of a large walnut tree trunk. By retaining the visual evidence of the wood’s source, Hague alluded to the power of growth in nature. The beauty of the sculpture arises in part from the sensuous organic patterns and color nuances of the natural wood. The sheer size of this monolithic wood piece may also comment indirectly on the massive clear-cutting of American forests in the 1960s.

Bibliographic Highlights

Giannini, Paula, and Raoul Hague. Raoul Hague. New York: Raoul Hague Foundation, 1999.

Hess, Thomas B. “Introducing the Sculpture of Raoul Hague.” Art News 53 (January 1955): 19–21.

Levi Strauss, David. Reanimating Matter: Raoul Hague’s Sculptures and Robert Frank’s Photographs. New Paltz, NY: Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, State University of New York, 2002.

Sandler, Irving. “Hague: The Wood of Dreams.” Art News 61 (November 1962): 38–39.

Saunders, Wade. Raoul Hague. Chicago: Arts Club of Chicago, 1983.

Washington Gallery of Modern Art. Raoul Hague. Washington, DC, 1964. Text by Gerald Nordland.

View the Raoul Hague Foundation website