NEW YORK.- The Dahesh Museum of Art is pleased to bring to this country the first monographic exhibition devoted to Charles Cordier, the leading ethnographic sculptor of 19th-century France, whose work emerged from the mainstream of his time to make a singular claim on the attention of our own: Cordier was one of the first artists committed to capturing the diverse beauty of humanity in various stones and metal finishes. Facing the Other: Charles Cordier, Ethnographic Sculptor brings together some 60 sculptures—many never exhibited before—as well as paintings, prints, and photographs documenting the artist’s career, borrowed from important public and private collections in France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
Cordier’s oeuvre, devoted to the depiction of people of various races (as race was understood in the 19th century), stands on its own artistic merits while documenting the distinctively 19thcentury moment when a nascent commitment to ethnographic veracity blended with a taste for lavish decoration. Men and women of North and Sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, the Near and Middle East, and the Mediterranean were among Cordier’s subjects. While celebrated in his lifetime by many critics and artists, including Auguste Rodin and Jean-Jacques Pradier, Cordier had to defend both his subjects and his materials throughout his career. In a not unfamiliar trajectory, critical esteem and commercial success during his lifetime were followed quickly by obscurity. Certain of Cordier’s pieces, however, have clearly regained their appeal: in recent years, sculptures like the Negro of the Sudan and the Capresse of the Colonies (both included in the exhibition) have become favorites of visitors to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Now, a century after his death, Cordier’s vision of the human family—a kind of aesthetic egalitarianism fully realized in his oeuvre—the adventurous innovation with which he used materials, and the charm of the works themselves, make this exhibition unique and compelling. It is only now, and only at the Dahesh Museum of Art, that we can admire him anew. Facing the Other remains on view until January 9, 2005. It was organized by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, in conjunction with the Dahesh Museum Art and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. The exhibition was curated by Laure de Margerie, Archivist, and Edouard Papet, Curator of Sculpture, both at the Musée d’Orsay. Stephen R. Edidin, the Dahesh’s Chief Curator, has coordinated the exhibition in New York.