“John Farnham: Life Form” at Yale Center for British Art

Runner-up: John Quiroz

John Farnham was born in 1942 in Perry Green, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, England. In 1958, he began to participate in his father's business that managed the estate of artist Henry Moore. He eventually became Moore’s assistant and remained as such until Moore’s death in 1986. It was in 1969 that Farnham exhibited his own artwork for the first time at the Pace Gallery in London. Finally, in 1981, John Farnham created this sculpture, Life Form, in the bronze medium. This is the piece I will interpret. 

The artwork, which is vertical in its organization, is made of bronze poured into a molding that was made of clay. This is how most bronze sculptures of the day were created. The top appears to be triangular and have a specific texture. It eventually descends toward a circular base. Starting from the front view, there seems to be texture created at the top as the sculpture was hot and cold enough to be manipulated. In addition, there is a slight triangular indentation, and to the side of this triangle, there is an upside-down triangle; as we look further down, there is an even deeper indentation. All these were further heated as the sculpture was cool enough to make shadows. Finally, the bottom of the sculpture funnels inward onto the base.

The side view again reveals the triangular-like a top with a distinct textured and a deep indentation towards the back of the sculpture, but this time it is textured and heated to show shadow. Next, towards the left of the indentation, there is a beveling of the work that approaches the viewers’ eye. Then, it again descends to the base in a funnel-like manner. Overall, the side view of the sculpture does seem to show more shadowing than the front view. Lastly, there is a profound roundness towards the right side of the piece.

As I observe the rear view of this artwork, it is increasingly taking on human form, and the personality and emotions of a human being portrayed in this view (to be expanded upon later). The top, as mentioned, reveals texture, which is hair-like and exhibits a distinct roundness or hump. This view has less detail than the other views, but, in contrast, it has more character as I see it.

All said, I believe Farnham has created a life form rich in detail. With the detail, he has drawn a picture for the viewer.  He shows us a true human form, which is obvious, and as the title of the art piece states; however, I see much more. I see the sculpture as a man deep in thought and sorrow. The details on top of the artwork are that of disheveled hair that has not been taken care of in a long time. The details of the front view show us a man with his head in his hands, full of possible regret and contemplation. Perhaps he is crying. The round hump that I explained before is his back. It shows a deep resignation and surrender—a type of sadness that cannot be alleviated or consoled by anyone. But, in addition, I do not see a frail body type in this sculpture. Instead, I see a human form of strength. Farnham seems like he purposely made the human form seem strong. This is evident with the thickness of his arms, legs, torso, and neck. I’m not sure if the artist is trying to delve into Greek mythology and maybe tell us the sad story of Hercules and the death of his children. Perhaps he is showing us that even humans, as strong or “Herculean” as we might see ourselves, can go through great pain—pain that no one is immune to these types of sorrows.

From the author

"I am glad and honored to have participated in Yale Center for British Art's essay contest. The museum, even though it is small, it is rich in history and incredible works of art. I have found a brand-new fondness for the arts thanks to this program and my late mother, Maria, an immigrant from Ecuador who always encouraged me to excel!"

About the author

John Quiroz is currently taking science and math classes at Gateway Community College to obtain a degree in the health field.

Read the next essay

Farnham, John. “Life Form.” 1981. Sculpture: Bronze with patina application technique. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut.

Wikipedia contributors. "John Farnham." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Jan. 2021. Web. 24 Jan. 2021.
Top image
Three views of John Farnham's Life Form, 1981, bronze, Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Jeffrey H. Loria, Yale BA 1962, © John Farnham