Raoul Hague, Big Indian Mountain, 1965-1966
Detail of Raoul Hague, Big Indian Mountain, 1965-1966
Big Indian Mountain
Valerie Fletcher: Raoul Hague was one of a generation of sculptors who believed that it was important to work in a tradition of craftsmanship – that is to carve directly in natural materials like wood and stone using simple traditional tools. The idea behind this was that as life became more and more mechanized, art needed to be a refuge from that insistent mechanization.
In the 1940s, Hague moved to Woodstock, New York, which then, as now, is a kind of artists’ colony. He began to find his sources for wood in the region around Woodstock including some wonderfully big trees. Whenever a tree came down in a lightning storm or it was taken down for construction purposes, he would try and get a massive section of the trunk. The sculpture we have here, Big Indian Mountain from the mid 1960s, came from a massive walnut tree. And rather than transform that chunk of tree into something that doesn’t resemble a tree at all, such as a figure or perhaps a purely abstract composition of intricate forms, Hague instead preferred to preserve the original shape of the wood segment. And so you have here what was the trunk branching out into three major branches.
As he worked in sculptures like this, he became more and more aware, not only of the intrinsic beauty of the wood, of its grain, but how forms like this serve as a kind of metaphor reminding us that we are all growing, organic creatures; that the wood, while beautiful in and of itself, is also a reminder of our intrinsic roots in nature.