George Borg (artist)

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George Borg

George Borg (1906-1983) was born in Valletta on 22 April 1906. His parents were Giorgio Borg and Rosa née Bonello. He was the eldest of five siblings. His father died when he was 13 years old and, together with his mother, had to share the upbringing of his two brothers and two sisters.

He began to study drawing under Giuseppe Duca at the age of eight years and later modelling under Professor Antonio Micallef, when he was ten years old. Then he began to attend the Malta Government School of Art. In 1930 he won a scholarship for modelling at the same School, which helped him to go to Rome and enrol as a student for the sculpture courses at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti.

He frequented these courses for four years (1930 — 1934) and studied under the guidance of various professors, among whom the well-known Angelo Zanelli, the sculptor responsible for the frieze that adorns “L’Altare della Patria” of Rome. In 1933 he succeeded to obtain the Diploma for Sculpture after three years of a four-year course.

Between 1933 — 1934 he undertook a special course of a high standard (‘‘corso speciale di perfezionamento’’), and at the same time followed the course of the British Academy of Arts’’, where in June 1934 he merited a special mention (‘‘hors de concours’’) in a competition organised by the ‘‘Selwyn Brinton and Calderon Competitions’’.

During his stay in Rome between 1932 and 1934, Borg had the opportunity of supervising the evening nude classes at the ‘‘British Academy of Arts’’ where in 1934 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Sculpture.

Back in Malta, he was assigned as a teacher of Art at the Government Schools; between 1940 and 1948 he was appointed assistant Master of Sculpture and from 1948 to 1971 Master of Sculpture at the Government School of Art. Having attained the age limit, he was asked to continue to teach for a further five years, after which period he enjoyed a well-earned pension.

In all these works one could detect various phases in Borg’s artistic achievements as a courageous innovator. In his first output, owing to his youthful exhuberance Borg felt the need to evade traditional conservatisms, especially local ones. On his return from Rome he felt imbued by a creative modern force that permitted him to affirm himself as a neo-classic artist, with modernistic impulses.

We find also in Borg an artistic technique which varies with his gradual artistic advance and this shows the affirmation of his personality as an artist. Edward Sammut in his ‘‘Profili di Artisti Maltesi” (Lux Press, Malta, 1937) had this to say about Borg’s first productions: ‘‘In general, the characteristics of the first works are conspicuous by their linear decision and their powerful way in treating the subject. The construction is decisively strong and solicits admiration’’.

Portrait of George Borg by Anton Inglott, at MUŻA, Valletta

George Borg has proved himself to be a refined anatomist when treating-nude subjects, and in fact it is in these nude subjects that an artist can prove without doubt his ability in this difficult art. Borg obtained his Artistic Diploma at the ‘‘Regia Accademia di Belle Arti” of Rome with a nude female of exquisite proportions. He also made a male nude classically conceived and executed. In these and other nude figures one can feel the soft harmony of the flesh, that gives vitality to the raw material and shows distinctly what true sculpture is vis-a-vis the void and superficial interpretations of other un-inspired works.

George Borg has to his credit various sacred art works: ‘‘Angels’’ at “Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary” in Gozo; a Sacred Heart (1930) at the ‘‘Blue Sisters’’ chapel, in St. Julians; the Statue of Saint Sebastian for the Parish Church of Qormi, sculptured in one log of pine wood; a statue of Saint Theresa of the child Jesus sculpted also in wood and a Sacred Heart in bronze executed for the Registry of the Superior Courts in Valletta. The original plaster cast of this relief was donated with other works, by the artist to the National Museum of Fine Arts. Abandoning tradition, in this work George Borg shows the signs of the nails not on the palm of Jesus’ hands, but on the carpus, that part of the hand between the palm and the wrist; and this is according to the scientific research made by Dr. Villandre of Saint Jean de-Luz and confirmed by the Holy Shroud; it being retained that the palms are not strong enough to hold the weight of a human body crucified alive.

Another work by George Borg, to which reference has already been made, is the Statue of Saint Sebastian, the Roman who suffered martyrdom with a heroic stance. George Borg, having lived for four years in Rome, had Roman history at heart and was truly elated when he was asked to sculpt the figure of a Roman Centurion. He studied the uniform in its minute details, the history of the Saint, the symbols of his martyrdom and above all his image as a human being, a soldier and a convinced Christian. The final result gave a strong, handsome and ecstatic semblance of a true soldier of Christ. Although Borg adopted a modern approach to this sculpture, yet one can perceive the influence of the Italian Rinascimento, with a fleeting vision of Donatello and other great artists of that epoch.

The bust of Dun Karm, Malta’s National Poet, was ordered by the Christus Rex Society and cast in bronze at the foundry of Amerigo di Martino Banzanti of Pietrasanta, Carrara. In this bust, George Borg succeeded to give us a true effigy of the Poet. The original bronze is at the entrance of the Public Library in Valletta; while a cast from the original model was later erected as a monument in Antonio Sciortino Street, Żebbuġ. The original model is amongst the other works donated by the artist to the National Museum of Fine Arts.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus in relief, cast in bronze by Lagana Foundry of Naples and commissioned by the late Prime Minister, Dr. Giorgio Borg Olivier on the occasion when the Auberge d’Aragon, then the official residence of the Prime Minister, was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is to be seen on the interior part of the principal entrance and was put in situ a few days prior to the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in May 1954.

George Borg has kept alive a continuous exuberance, proving himself to be a dynamic sculptor who has dedicated his life to Art.

He died on 29 December 1983 at the age of 77.