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 Emile-Antoine Bourdelle  (1861 - 1929)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: monumental public sculpture-mythology figures

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Biography from Abby M Taylor Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Emile Antoine Bourdelle was one of the leaders of twentieth century monumental sculpture and qualified by Rodin as “a pioneer of the future”.  Unlike academic sculptors and their moralizing grandiloquence and superfluous ornamentation, Bourdelle chose to depict rigorous structure and a powerful rhythm, likely reflective of his peasant past.  The artist's goal was to capture the whole and recreate it, a very dissimilar approach to most of his contemporaries.  The great philosopher Henri Bergson admired his approach and his artistry: “What strikes me as soon as I look at one of your works is that each part seems to contain the whole. Isn't that the mark of perfection?”

A notion central to Bourdelle's aesthetics is the separation of the image or symbol of the work of art from the source or object it represents, so as to arrive at a feeling for the fleeting and corruptible nature of reality, for the sense that life is illusory, or simply a dream.  For artists like Bourdelle and Debussy, the image or symbol of the work of art cannot be derived from the phenomenal world, but rather must be stripped of all literary associations, so that the emotions of the spectator can soar directly and freely toward the supposed eternal essence, the mystery of things, their spiritual significance, and the universal idea.  Instead of illustrating scenes from poems, art should only use very clear symbols that do not rely on any written text. The idea can be read without effort. They awaken the imagination of the spectator without extraneous effort. The forms created only provide a pretext for the emotion to expand indefinitely.

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle was initially trained in cabinetmaking, but he decided to enter the École des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse in 1876.  He studied successively under Alexandre Falguière, Juiles Dalou, and Auguste Rodin.  He was Rodin's assistant from 1893 to 1906.  Bourdelle differed sharply from Rodin in his preoccupation with the relation of sculpture to architecture.  Seeking his inspiration in archaic Greece and the Gothic, he achieved his greatest success in heroic and monumental works such as Hercules, of which there is a cast in the Metropolitan Museum; his colossal Virgin of Alsace; his bas-reliefs for the Théâtre des Champs Élysées; and his monument to Americans who died in World War I (Pointe de Grave).  He is also noted for his numerous portrait heads.

Bourdelle believed that "sculpture is the realization of an object." He strived to follow the example of nature by creating objects that are endowed of meaning and emotional strength.  Bourdelle draws a clear distinction between his works and objects produced by machine, which lack emotion and do not stem from the example of nature.

The Musee Bourdelle situated at 18, rue Antoine Bourdelle, Paris, was created in 1949 following a donation by his wife and daughter to the Mayor of Paris.  It is located at the site where Bourdelle had his studios.  Today, several hundred of his works are kept there.

Biography from Schiller & Bodo European Paintings:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Emile Antoine Bourdelle, French, 1861-1929

Antoine Bourdelle was one of the prominent creators of 20th century monumental sculpture.  He was born in Montauban, the native village of Ingres, and began his training as a young boy with the founder of the Ingres Museum.  In 1885 Bourdelle won a scholarship to move to Paris and attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He worked in the studio of Jules Dalou and, by 1893, was working as assistant to Rodin.

For the next fifteen years he worked as chief assistant to Rodin, whose energetic surfaces are reflected in much of Bourdelle’s work.  His style departed from that of his master, though, in works that embrace an elegant simplification of form and taut surface that bears a strong relationship to the work of his contemporary Aristide Maillol.  By 1910, Bourdelle was generally regarded as the outstanding sculptor of France apart from Rodin himself.  His house and studio in Paris have been converted into the Musée Bourdelle, opened in 1961 to mark the centenary of his birth.

Selected Museum Collections:
Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional des Bellas Artes; Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museums; Canberra, National Gallery of Australia; Art Institute of Chicago; Cleveland Museum of Art; Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum; London, Courtauld Institute of Art; Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Montauban, Musée Ingres; Paris, Musée Bourdelle, Musée d’Orsay; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna; Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art; Washington DC, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden;

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