Maquettes for Theatre Set Design

Maquettes are sometimes used as creativity support tools by theatre set designers. The curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts at McNay Art Museum is quoted as saying that:

“Many designers now really work their ideas out in 3-D instead of sketching them out on paper”

Bennett, S 2014, ‘Constructing the Stage explores maquettes in theater design’ Houston Chronicle

Ralph Koltai, a prominent set designer who began his career as a puppeteer in the 1960s, used maquettes to visualise his set designs.

Maquette for ‘Richard III’ 1979
Artist: Ralph Koltai, British, born Germany, 1924-2018

Koltai’s beautiful maquette for a London production of ‘Richard III’ (1979), resembles a contemporary sculpture, with its emotive sparsity and rough, gestural construction. 

“Koltai made the maquette with sheets of grey, cold, hard metal to suggest the brutality of Shakespeare’s murderous king. Onstage, the walls tilted and slid back and forth, menacingly. The wall with the “u” cut in the top even served as a block for beheading rivals to the throne. The stage ran red with rivulets of blood.”

This Maquette is made by Ralph Koltai using painted fabric over board and foam, with painted paper and wire. It predicted the set for Tragedy by Sophocles, adapted by Gail Rademacher. Produced by the Chichester Festival Theatre, West Sussex, England, 1974.

Pamela Howard writes of Koltai’s contemporary work:

A sheet of rusty metal became a wall in Simon Boccanegra, a polished dish and sphere became the entrance to Caliban’s Cave in The Tempest and the root of a tree became the setting for Howard Brenton’s play The Romans in Britain.

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