Ex Nihilo Working Model is intermediate scale model for full scale plaster for the final stone of Ex Nihilo, part of The Creation Sculptures at Washington National Cathedral.
Frederick Hart had earned the commission to create the six main sculptures for the West façade of Washington National Cathedral in 1973 with a small maquette entitled “Ex Nihilo” (Out of Nothing). Hart borrowed concepts from the revolutionary writings of the early 20th Century Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) whose book “Divine Milieu” (published in 1957) heretically married his paleontological background (he took part in the discovery of Piltdown Man in 1912 and Peking Man in 1929) with his theological background as a Jesuit priest. Teilhard describes mankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself and continuing to evolve and grow into a maximum level of complexity he called “The Omega Point”.
“Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.”~ Teilhard de Chardin, from Hymn of the Universe
Hart’s “Ex Nihilo” is therefore a birthing of man and woman (Adam and Eve) is a coriolitic morass of viscous and fiery bitumen, both solid and liquid. The eight figures, four men (Adam) and four women (Eve) are each eyes closed reaching, growing and stretching out of the primordial soup from whence they are born. They are pained in their expression, with furrowed brows and strained musculature, as birth is a painful and shocking process, both for the born and the birthing.
Much in the same way that Auguste Rodin revitalized sculptural traditions by restoring the energy and vibrancy that the academic tradition had stifled throughout the 19th Century, Hart was able to restore the relevance of the classical figurative sculpting traditions which had forgotten itself in the modernist period following Rodin. The decoration of a cathedral tympanum with high relief is decidedly Romanesque, however Hart’s treatment of his figures could hardly be considered medieval. Hart noted that by rediscovering "discarded axioms" and forgotten artistic standards of the past, an "ancient trinity of truth, beauty, and goodness” art can again be of "service to values and ideals it holds in greater esteem than Art itself." (Text © 2012 Reed V. Horth, for RRFA)