Carl Milles (1875-1955) is undoubtedly one of our foremost sculptors during the 20th century. Few have had such great success and lasting effect of his oeuvre. A traditionalist yet seminal. Celebrated, but also contentious, his is still one of the brightest stars of the modernist sculpture sky.
With his traditional subject matter; ancient and Christian mythology, and Swedish history as well, along with a classical yet quaint style, whereas movement expression carries traits of spirituality, he seem barely touched by the radical developments in modern sculpture which were happening around him.
One of his publicly most famous works, alongside “Poseidon” in Gothenburg and the “Orpheus group” in Stockholm, is indeed “Europe and the Bull” from 1926.
The sculpture depicts a course of events in Greek mythology where Zeus, insidiously disguised as a bull, attracts and abducts princess Europe to Crete, where he eventually lays with her. It is tempting to, perhaps a bit cynical, allude the situation in the world today i general and the geopolitical Europe in particular.
Milles began his course of study at the Technical School in Stockholm, but after having been granted a scholarship he went to Paris, where he studied anatomy at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. For a time he worked for Auguste Rodin, from which he derived a strong impression. Whereas his early works are characterized by salon sculpture, he developed under Rodin a impressionistic style, mainly in small format genre figuers. Around 1913, a new phase occurred, characterized by stylistic features and designs from Greek archaic sculpture and decorative simplicity and a drastic narrative.