Antoine Bourdelle

Bourdelle, Antoine

French sculptor (1861-1929). 2 autograph letters signed "Émile Bourdelle" and "Bourdelle" and one autograph letter, unsigned. In French. Paris and no place. Various formats. Altogether 21½ pp.
$ 4,802 / 4.000 € (80857/BN52736)

Profound correspondence with his friend and patron Jean de Marigny regarding his artistic inspiration, then-current projects, and fellow artists. The dated letter from 15 March 1900 is largely dedicated to the opening of the so-called "Institut Rodin", a workshop and school in Montparnasse shared with Auguste Rodin and Jules Desbois. In spite of Bourdelle's claim to have "subjugated Rodin" and his obvious enthusiasm, the initially successful project ultimately failed because of Rodin's lack of cooperation.

Bourdelle also mentions the completion of his raised relief tympanum for the theatre at Musée Grévin and preparations for an exhibition: "The dream of my thought seems to accomplish itself; I ran, I wanted, we built, I subjugated Rodin and we have the sculpture workshops. Rodin Desbois Bourdelle. About thirty students are already there, all nations meet there and for more than a month I am still the only teacher. - I have made a large theatre tympanum at Musée Grévin, for the stage, and I am preparing important consignments of applied arts (sculpture) for the exhibition." His own vision for the institute is that of an "immense school" ultimately reaching the entire world: "I have the vision of an immense school tomorrow whose branches will spread all over the world. Ah! if there are men there, that is to say, souls, what a blossoming I expect. It is because I have travelled such a path you see! and I have seen so well my lost years for lack of serious tradition and the little love of beauty of the professors, all of them shopkeepers! that I know the need for a sincere education [...]". - The second signed letter is a poetical reflection on artistic inspiration and a complaint of the worldly constraints that bind "artistic minds". Bourdelle hints at his hopes for a municipal commission that would "liberate the soul of this man", allowing him to create a "column or a palace" after his own ideas: "Behold, perhaps I will be able to show this heaven that we see from our earth my speck of dust as a proportion, more as a span of human soul. Perhaps the Municipal Council of the city of Paris will liberate the soul of this man who is your friend Bourdelle [with] a voucher allowing for more or less a thousand francs to build a column or a palace at his thought. Let it be only that, and I will be able to protest against the subjugation of artistic minds! It has always been a matter of urgency that an ink, that a builder's hand, that a penetrating eye, should write, erect or show above the rake eaters the nourishment taken from the eternal rays of God [...]". - Bourdelles' associative and poetic style is taken even further in the final letter in which he recounts, among other things, a probably fictional, dream-like encounter with a woman, musing about her perfect beauty and the possibility of love: "I felt true beauty - in the street she must seem ordinary but the chains of beauty are like that. She comes in, she undulates, I follow her. A black light that seems to want to consume me. Sitting down, she undoes things and at the very bottom small lights are born, then legs that are as soft as white velvet and at the same time say the warmth of roses under the sun - a neck is born, a shoulder is born from the arms without angles raised to the hairpins, it is the crescent with black eyes [...]". Finally, he mentions his teacher Alexandre Falguière (1831-1900), culminating in the emancipation of the younger artist: "Yes, last time at Falguière's, in passing she tells me that he isn't suitable, even if he was young [...]". Bourdelle concludes: "It's tragi-comic, poor beauty and I, a wicked soldier of love, with the mania of wanting the soul to be equal to the beauty of the body and to run away if there is none of that." - Traces of folds, occasional brownstaining and two minor tears in the signed but undated letter..

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