Sometimes, a title can kill a show or a film. So don’t let yourself be discouraged by « Bourdelle et l’Antique », the title of a magnificent exhibition devoted to sculpture at the beginning of the 20 th century at Musée Bourdelle. It catches the best of Antoine Bourdelle, Aristide Maillol, Amedeo Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso and Cézanne on the theme of women and athletes, Gods and Goddesses.
I was lucky to be toured around by Jérôme Godeau, curator of the show with Claire Barbillon, who spent two years finding Greek statues at the Louvre, paintings in Montauban where Bourdelle like Ingres was born, photographs and Giacometti sculptures at musée d’Orsay and uncovering the treasures which are kept in the reserves of the Museum.
Archaïsm leading to modernity could be the theme of the exhibition which describes the Greek and Egyptian myths (Pallas Athena, Apollo, Herakles, Cleopatra, Penelope and the Centaur) revisited by the sculptor between 1900 and 1914. 150 works describe the world of these artists of the turn of the century who all studied antic statues at the Louvre and at Ecole des Beaux Arts and created their own style in sculptures.
Whether in a painting of “Baigneuses” by Cézanne or in a « Bust » by Germaine Richier, in the fabulous decors of “La Danse” for Théâtre des Champs Elysées by Bourdelle or in “La Méditerranée” by Maillol, a strong sensuality comes through in all of these works.
Some of the works that struck me the most is the series of sculptures with large voids, the bronze bodies standing in equilibrium. This is true of Herakles, archer or with a lady deer, of the plaster of “Bacchante with grapes”, of Henri Matisse’s “La Serpentine” and of Henri Laurens “Musician with a harp”.
What the curators did particularly well in the show, is relate the different artists of the time and compare their subjects and styles. The different influences are obvious.
Through paintings, photographs and many Greek sculptures, the mythological world of Bourdelle comes alive and photographs of his two wives (the second one a Greek) also influence our perception of his art. Whether God or human, all these statues have a surreal power. The scenography by Cécile Degos is particularly clever, providing angles of vision of the different monumental statues. Penelope waiting for Odysseus I presented on its original socle which was made especially. It is so high that it is particularly impressive to the eye. Pablo Picasso’s Masque de femme, 1908 and Amedeo Modigliani, Tête de Femme, 1912, are just as strong and fascinating.
The museum is located near Gare Montparnasse in an atelier belonging to the city of Paris and has a very special charm similar to that of Musée de la Vie Romantique or the Zadkine museum. You can wander in the garden and in the different buildings and keep dreaming about the fabulous muscles and body of the Archer ! And I recommend that you ask Estelle Guichard for a private tour with a lecturer because the history behind each piece is remarkable. (Musée Bourdelle, tel: 01 49 54 73 73, until Feburary 4, 16 rue Bourdelle)
Share this Post