Musée Bourdelle had a serious facelift and it’s successful

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Penelope, 1909

The garden was awakening and the first pink magnolias were in bloom to celebrate the 5 million € renovation  of Musée Bourdelle, the house and studio where the turn-of-the century sculptor trained so many famous artists such as Giacometti and Germaine Richier. The architect Bertrand Naut has done an extraordinary job or consolidation of the foundations and restoration of the house located near the Montparnasse train station. Well known for his monumental “Apollo”, for “Penelope” modeled on his wife Stéphanie and his mistress Cléôpatre, “Herakles archer” and his numerous heads of Beethoven, Bourdelle is also the sculptor of Théâtre des Champs Elysées, where he painted frescoes of Leda in the atrium and for which he conceived the façade with Auguste Perret,  in June 1911. There he included Apollo and Bacchus-Dynonisus which he calls, “God of the measured fury”.

The garden is a beautiful decor for Bourdelle’s colossal statues

The new scenography conceived by Dominique Brard is particularly light and happy with a mix of photos, show windows, and a great use of natural light. Sculptures are particularly hard to exhibit and the sculptor was very particular with the presentation steles which he used. Here the small bronzes are shown on tables held on wooden stools, which match the blond wooden floors. Small objects are either presented in glass cases or on shelves agains the wall. The order of the sculptures is thematic and the different stages of the conception is very well explained through cartels.

One of the galleries lit by the evening sun is very dramatic with Bourdelle’s heads

One discovers, a plaster of Isadora Duncan‘s hands for “la Danse”, a porcelain face of Jane Avril for Haviland, many small size studies in bronze of “the Archer”, which are as fine as lace. Pictures of the model for Herakles, Commandant Doyen-Parigot (who was killed early in WWI) is particularly moving. Bourdelle had met this “splendid athlete” at Rodin’s Saturdays and made many versions of it. Jérôme Godeau who worked seven years ago on “Bourdelle et l’antique” was a perfect guide and talked passionately about the influences of Bourdelle on sculptors of the time.

Curator Jérôme Godeau in front of “Medusa”, a door knocker, exhibited in 1925 at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs

Downstairs, in the special  exhibition space, Philippe Cognée occupies the galleries with over a thousand small paintings of successive Basel art fairs. I tried to recognize the painters and only succeeded with a few. It would be a perfect exercise for contemporary art students to test their eye and culture… They are exhibited in a maze of white walls  with 16 heads of men in lime wood and painted with encaustic. I am usually a fan of Philipe Cognée but was not convinced this time.

The new restaurant on the first floor is called Rhodia after the sculptor’s daughter

I did not try the new restaurant Rhoda  (it opes on the 28 th of March) yet but it is a happy place with a terrace on the fabulous garden. So now you know there are many reasons to visit the Musée Bourdelle.

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