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Antoine Bourdelle (1861–1929) was a French sculptor who lived and worked in this house and atelier in the Montparnasse district of Paris.
Like the atelier of his friend and teacher Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) – and like the atelier of his younger colleague Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967) – Bourdelle’s atelier has been preserved (against all odds) and is now a museum where numerous works of his are on display. Bourdelle’s widow and his daughter worked for many years to make this possible, with the assistance of a large donation by Gabriel Cognacq, the nephew of Ernest Cognacq, founder of the Samaritaine department store and the Cognacq-Jay Museum.
The Bourdelle museum was opened in 1949, twenty years after the sculptor’s death, and has been enlarged twice since then. The museum includes three gardens, in addition to the atelier and the indoor exhibition spaces.
Like the Zadkine and Cognacq-Jay museums, the Bourdelle museum belongs to the city of Paris, so there is no admission charge except during temporary exhibitions.
In my first photo I was mainly trying to get a picture of the horse – General Alvéar’s horse, I assume, but without the saddle and rider – but it turns out that three of Bourdelle’s most famous statues are also visible in the background and the fourth is hidden behind the horse’s front legs and a small tree.
The one on the left is La Liberté, which like the other three was originally made for the base of the monument to General Alvéar in Buenos-Aires. This monument was commissioned by the Republic of Argentina in 1913, but because of delays caused by the First World War it was not inaugurated until 1926.
These four statues, called la Force, la Victoire, la Liberté and l’Eloquence, can be seen in various parts of the world because Bourdelle had multiple castings made of them for various buyers. His contract with the Republic of Argentina specifically allowed him to do this.
The most surprising thing for me was that when I read toonsarah’s tip about the Hakone Open Air Museum in Japan, I learned that these four statues are also on display in Hakone in a beautiful Japanese landscape.
Second photo: Bourdelle’s atelier, which is now a part of the museum.
Third photo: Baigneuse accroupie (Bathing girl crouching) in the first garden.
Fourth photo: The third and last garden is very small and barely has enough space to display the statue of General Alvéar on his horse. Alvéar lived from 1788 to 1852 and was one of the leaders of the Argentinean war for independence from Spain.
Fifth photo: Although Bourdelle’s atelier has been preserved, the neighborhood around it has changed dramatically since his time. The Montparnasse Tower now dominates this part of Paris, and there are numerous other modern buildings in the area, including a particularly ugly one that is visible between the tower and Bourdelle’s horse in my photo.
Next review from May 2013: Bourdelle and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Bourdelle and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
Some of the bas-reliefs at the Bourdelle Museum looked very familiar to me, and a glace at the labels explained why. They were ones he had made between 1910 and 1913 for the façade of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, so I had seen them there without knowing who the artist was.
The bas-reliefs at the top of the first photo were cast in bronze and were intended for the theater, but in the end he executed the same designs in stone. The stone versions are the ones that can be seen at the top of the theater façade at 15 Avenue Montaigne.
After leaving the Bourdelle Museum I rode over (on a Vélib’ bike) to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, since by coincidence I had a ticket for Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni on that same evening.
Second photo: The Muses running towards Apollo, 1912. This is the bronze version at the museum.
Third photo: This is a plaster cast of La Danse, on display in the Great Hall of the museum. Bourdelle made numerous versions of La Danse, which shows two of the leading ballet dancers of his time, Isadora Duncan and Vaslav Nijinsky. Bourdelle had first seen Isadora Duncan when she was dancing the rôle of Gluck’s Iphigénie at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1909.
Fourth photo: La Comédie, of which this is also a plaster cast in the Great Hall of the museum, shows two young actresses cheerfully trading masks. The fully-dressed actress on the right is supposed to represent modern theater, while the half-naked one on the left represents ancient theater.
Fifth photo: This is the stone version of Bourdelle’s bas-relief La Musique, on the façade of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. The inspiration for this one is said to have been a performance of Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun at the Théâtre du Châtelet in May 1912, with Vaslav Nijinsky dancing the rôle of the faun.
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
Don Giovanni at the Champs-Élysées, 2006 and 2013
Concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, 2012
Next review from May 2013: Musée Zadkine
- Museum Visits
- Theater Travel
- Arts and Culture
Le musée Bourdelle est situé au 18 de la rue Antoine Bourdelle dans le XVe arrondissement de Paris. Il est installé dans les appartements, ateliers et jardins où Antoine Bourdelle vécut et travailla dès 1885 à l'adresse de l'époque 16, impasse du Maine. Le lieu fut transformé en musée en 1949. Une première extension fut réalisée par l'architecte Henri Gautruche en 1961, à l'occasion du centenaire de la naissance d'Antoine Bourdelle. Une seconde extension a été réalisée en 1992 et confiée à l'architecte Christian de Portzamparc