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Largest Rodin exhibition ever presented in Canada on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Auguste Rodin, The Defense, or The Call to Arms, 1879. Bronze, Léon Perzinka Foundry, cast 1899, 111.7 × 64.5 × 43 cm. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest. This work was sold by Max Stern, Dominion Gallery, Montreal (1961). Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière.


MONTREAL.- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting Metamorphoses: In Rodin’s Studio from May 30 to October 18, 2015. Produced and circulated in the United States by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris, this exhibition features close to 300 works. The largest Rodin exhibition ever presented in Canada, it includes masterpieces that are being shown for the first time in North America.

MAJOR LOANS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN NORTH AMERICA
Metamorphoses: In Rodin’s Studio includes special loans from the Musée Rodin, including original studio plasters of the masterpieces The Thinker and The Walking Man, along with Eve and the large Meditation, and a number of splendid vessels and flowers.

Through the generous support of the Musée Rodin and its director Catherine Chevillot, Metamorphoses: In Rodin’s Studio includes 171 sculptures; these include, in particular, nearly a hundred precious plasters, rarely lent (94 plasters which stand as very special and fragile witnesses from a bygone era to the master’s work). Plaster is the material best suited to perceiving Rodin’s manner of working. As the original works in raw clay could not be preserved, the plasters remain the most faithful stamp of his art.

Among the other loans from our generous Canadian and international collaborators is the marble The Hand of God from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additional lenders include some fifteen institutions and private collectors in Canada, France and the United States (among them the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Legion of Honor and the Los Angeles County Museum). Finally, a few sculptures by contemporaries and students of Rodin, such as Bourdelle, Carriès, Claudel and Desbois, inform visitors about life in the studio.

The exhibition also includes a few rare pieces in terracotta, glass paste, porcelain and
stoneware, fourteen precious marbles and a major selection of bronze castings of both older and more recent vintage, along with a number of drawings and watercolours (shown in rotation because of their fragility, with 23 in Montreal) and old photographs (86). Finally, a recent acquisition of the Museum’s, an important collection of 70 photographs taken by Eugène Duet, a close collaborator of Rodin, is being unveiled here.

AN EXHIBITION THAT SHOWS RODIN IN A NEW LIGHT
Metamorphoses: In Rodin’s Studio reveals how Rodin worked with his materials – clay, pencil, watercolours, plaster, marble, bronze – with his collaborators, models, practitioners and casters while being watched by documenters, photographers and writers. The theme of metamorphosis plunges viewers directly into the privacy of his studio, pulling back the curtain on this revolutionary sculptor’s creative process, which was always in constant motion.

“We are workers whose days are never done,” Rodin said. The Museum’s Director and Chief Curator, and also exhibition Curator, Nathalie Bondil, explains: “While the work of this brilliant sculptor, recognized in his lifetime, is famous the world over, sculptural practices in general and those of his own studio in particular are little known. Still today the public’s lack of understanding is nourished by a great deal of confusion. How can we accept that the original works in clay by this brilliant modeller have been lost? Are people well enough aware that the modest plasters are in fact the most direct material evidence of his talent? What are we to make of the marbles, which were never carved by the master himself? And what can be said of the patchwork of fragments he assembled? What is the status of older castings compared to the posthumous versions? How can we distinguish between the original and a copy? In short, sculpture poses many questions which only technical and cultural knowledge of studio practices makes it possible to analyse.”

While Rodin changed studios often in the course of his career, acquiring as many as six addresses in 1908, the Dépôt des marbres studio lent to him by the French government in Paris remained his main studio during his lifetime. Today this site, the handsome Hôtel Biron in Paris, is home to the Musée Rodin. While it is the most popular destination, the imposing studio full of plasters at his home in Meudon on the outskirts of Paris provides the most eloquent illustration of his methods.

Catherine Chevillot, Director of the Musée Rodin in Paris, presently undergoing major renovations to be unveiled this fall, remarks: “For the Musée Rodin this exhibition is a way to fulfil its fundamental mission, that of making Rodin’s work widely accessible. The French state is the legatee of his entire output, but also of the collections, archives, grounds at Meudon and copyright. This exhibition enables the Museum of Fine Arts to offer its audience an unusual view of the sculpture, one that is more private and also more moving.”

The studio is understood as an artistic community working for and around Rodin the sculptor, one of the last artists to have a studio in the great tradition of the masters of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Under the artistic direction of the master, who was part artist and part entrepreneur, this little world busied itself transferring his models in raw clay to other materials, because it was the artist who invented the form and his assistants who executed it. Today sculptors such as Richard Serra and Anish Kapoor work in the same manner.

In the nineteenth century, the era of “statue-mania,” sculpture was an art of reproduction and editions. It is a physically demanding and technically complex discipline, made onerous by virtue of its materials and assistants. Rodin employed some fifty people around 1900, many of whom lived on-site at Meudon in buildings around his Villa des Brillants. Various trades and professions were found there: models, workers who beat the clay, mortar-plashers, casters, “metteurs aux points,” stone carvers and practitioners, in addition to bronze casters and patinators and, in Rodin’s case, photographers. Rodin had worked long years in the great studio of another sculptor, named Carrier-Belleuse, and was quite familiar with its organization and hierarchy.

RODIN’S REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICES
Metamorphoses: In Rodin’s Studio shines light on Rodin’s experimental practices assembling, fragmenting, enlarging – whose innovations would revolutionize the language of sculpture, and provides a new perspective on his interactions with his many collaborators. The treatment of materials is examined with a view to their specificity and the innovative quality Rodin imparted to them.

The exhibition seeks to highlight Rodin’s impressive experimental labours, alone or with his collaborators, as he constantly took apart his compositions and put back them together as disjecta membra, as so many lexicological elements making up an endless narrative and giving new life to the status of the artist and that of the artwork, each of which is in a state of constant mutation.

By 1896, Rodin had begun to reuse his work as a personal lexicon, proceeding by unexpected turns, metamorphoses and even transgressions, each a way of leavening the “concentrated life” that would throw our understanding of sculpture into upheaval. The theme of metamorphosis, a deliberate borrowing from the language of mythology, is directly tied to Rodin’s demiurge-like toil in the studio, a secret site where works underwent constant transformation. The ceaseless play of the accidents and chance events of the labour involved, the fragmentation to the point of taking sculptures produced at an earlier date and stripping them down to their essentials in order to retain only their essential features, was a brilliant “patchwork” process through which Rodin was constantly assembling, mixing and combining his complete or partial figures to give them new meaning.

CREDITS AND CURATION
The exhibition is produced by the MMFA in collaboration with the Musée Rodin. It is being circulated by the MMFA to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (November 21, 2015 – March 13, 2016) and to the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (May 16 – September 5, 2016). The exhibition was curated by Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with the assistance of Sylvain Cordier, Associate Curator and Curator of early decorative arts, and, under the direction of Catherine Chevillot, Head Curator and Director of the Musée Rodin, by Sophie Biass-Fabiani, Curator of the Graphic Arts and Painting.

The exhibition design is by Sandra Gagné, Head of Exhibitions Production at the MMFA, and Nathalie Crinière of Agence NC, Paris. We would also like to acknowledge the collaboration of the Société des arts technologiques (SAT).

The partners for the circulating exhibition are, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, its director Alex Nyerges and Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the department of European art; and at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem its Director and Chief executive officer Dan Monroe and Priscilla Danforth, Director of Exhibition planning.

TOUCHING RODIN: A TACTILE GALLERY FOR THE PARTIALLY SIGHTED
The Museum’s Department of Education and Community Programmes presents an installation for persons with severe or slight sight impairment, conceived by Iris Amizlev.

This tactile experience enables the sight impaired, along with the rest of the Museum’s visitors, to better understand the master’s work. Replicas of his pieces are exhibited in the installation in resin and a variety of other materials – potter’s clay, plaster, bronze and marble – in various stages of completion, from rough textures to finely polished surfaces. In this immersive installation, projected images and a sound track created by the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) create the ambiance of a real sculpture studio.

A CONTEMPORARY VIEW OF RODIN: ADAD HANNAH AND DENYS ARCAND
Museum Director Nathalie Bondil has invited a new joint video installation by Adad Hannah, a photographer and video maker working in Vancouver, and the Quebec filmmaker Denys Arcand in Montreal. It is being presented here in a North American premiere.

AN ABUNDANT DOCUMENTARY PUBLICATION
Edited by Nathalie Bondil and Sophie Biass-Fabiani, an abundant 304-page documentary volume containing more than 475 illustrations is being published by the publishing department of the MMFA, the principal publisher, and 5 Continents Éditions, the associate publisher. The English edition is distributed by Harry N. Abrams of New York and by Yale University Press in London. The graphic design is by the Montreal agency Paprika.

This volume includes essays by Musée Rodin experts with, in alphabetical order, François Blanchetière on marble, Sophie Biass-Fabiani on the creative process, Catherine Chevillot on plaster, Véronique Mattiussi on life in the studio, and Hélène Pinet on the question of Rodin’s models and on Eugène Druet.

Other contributors to the volume include the National Gallery of Art restorers Daphne Barbour and Lisha Deming Glinsman in Washington, with a new study of the patina of works in bronze based on a selection of works in Canadian collections, Nathalie Bondil on the profile method, Sylvain Cordier on Max Stern and Rodin, and finally Antoinette Le Normand-Romain on the Sirens.

An abundant anthology of nearly twenty-five eyewitness accounts from Rodin’s time, translated into French for the first time in the French edition, and ten articles published in The American Architect and Building News in 1889, written by a historical figure, the American Truman Howe Bartlett, round out these studies.

An interview with the filmmaker Denys Arcand and the artist Adad Hannah by Catherine Bédard about their installation The Burghers of Vancouver completes the publication.

NEW AT THE MUSEUM: DIDACTIC TEXTS ONLINE
With the exhibition Metamorphoses, the MMFA is launching a practical mobile site for visitors. This new feature enables visitors to easily consult on their cell phone or tablet the explanatory wall texts and commentaries on the work in the gallery. Available in English and French, these texts were for the most part written by Nathalie Bondil and Sylvain Cordier. MBAMRODIN.com





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