Ophelia by Michael James Talbot

Beautiful Bronze Sculpture by Michael James Talbot, Britain’s Leading Figurative Artist

Ophelia by Michael James Talbot
‘Ophelia’ by Michael James Talbot

Calken’s resident artist, Michael James Talbot, has made many sculptures that incorporate classical drapery.

Michael used to carefully study the play of different materials and meticulously recreate every aspect of the weight, tension and hang of the material in his sculpture. He used to agonise over how to sculpt the edge of a drape where a foot protruded from beneath, trying to balance realism with the aesthetic of the piece.

Thankfully, he is no longer troubled with the same anxieties. ‘Ophelia’, part of the Emergent Collection, beautifully demonstrates what he likes to think of as a more mature and enlightened approach to such problems. He decided to introduce a flat plain to balance and divide the fully sculpted figure and disregard the formal studied limitations of the drapery.  The drapery becomes the plain, which is both a solid form in its own right and yet is also at one with the figure, revealing and yet concealing the contours of the human form beneath.

With this technique he can focus on the beauty in the gesture or movement, without being hampered by physical reality.  – because it makes no sense, it makes perfect sense.

Ophelia by Michael James Talbot
‘Ophelia’ by Michael James Talbot Third Life Scale

The key to the Emergent Collection is to know that the figures are first fully sculpted in the round to an advanced and complete stage. Michael fixes the pose, gesture and anatomy in the knowledge that half the features may be lost with the addition of the flat plains.  By adding, he is taking away, in doing so saying “this aspect is important and this aspect can fade”.  As so often in art, less is more.     

Michael’s fascination is leading him to design a new body of work, to be released in 2022. He says “My current interest and working pieces, are exploring through drawings & clay, how the figure can be wrapped. The extreme expression of this would be haute couture fashion, although my interest is more fundamental, of how female form is draped & decorated. Maybe encompassed by the phase “Sculpted By A Linen Sheet”, this is a process I started with my Emergent Collection in which I’m now attempting to simplify and extend into complementary shapes.”

Ophelia by Michael James Talbot
‘Ophelia’ by Michael James Talbot, Third Life Scale


Michael describes Ophelia, his original Emergent sculpture, as floating -rising above the concerns of her life, transported in a steam of dappled light and mist. This he has tried to capture in the patina of the bronze.

The inspiration for these patina effects is taken from light reflecting off  moving water onto adjacent surfaces, originally seen in the enigmatic water ways of Venice. This inspiration has led to an intense and ongoing study of patina effects giving the sculpture a liberating painterly aspect.

Michael has created ‘Ophelia’ in three different scales.

His ‘Maquette’ version, standing around 55cm, is a smaller scaled sculpture, which is not only beautiful, but fascinating, as it is how Michael plans and designs his larger works.  Michael does not typically draw out his designs, but starts with little clay sketches, where he experiments with form and balance. When he is satisfied with these, he builds on the design to create Maquettes for the collection.

He has also sculpted ‘Ophelia’ in a third life scale, a beautiful table top size, standing around 95cm tall and designed to fit any home, as well as a larger floor standing piece standing around 180cm tall.

All of Michael James Talbot Emergent sculpture is available in our shop pages.

'Ophelia Maquette' by Michael James Talbot
‘Ophelia Maquette’ by Michael James Talbot