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Karolína Fabelová

Bourdelle a Prague en 1909 et son rapport aux artistes tcheques et a Auguste Rodin

In 1909, Émile-Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929), a student of August Rodin, was hoping to become independent and obtain public commissions of his own in France. He longed to take Rodin's place as the leading figure in sculpture, and he believed that Prague, where an exhibition of Rodin's had been a great success in 1902, could help him achieve this aim. With the help of Rodin and Josef Mařatka, he became connected with the Mánes Association of Fine Artists in Prague, which in November 1908 officially asked him to put on an exhibition of his work in Prague. Bourdelle enthusiastically accepted this offer, and by 29 February 1909 Bourdelle's first exhibition abroad was opening at Mánes Pavilion. The exhibition reassessed the legacy of Rodin and made it easier to understand the work of Aristide Maillol. Like Rodin and like the French critics Gabriel Mourey and Camille Mauclair, Bourdelle also came to Prague, where he gave a lecture on Rodin, and in it he very diplomatically, and beneath a veil of compliments, criticised his teacher. He offered synthesis in the place of Rodin's analysis and architectonic structure in the place of individual impression. Bourdelle's message did not go unanswered, although Czechs grasped it after a certain interlude, as the lessons of Rodin were still too fresh. Bourdelle's spontaneity helped him to establish an open discussion with the Czechs about art, which influenced an entire generation of Czech sculptors, in particular Jan Štursa and later a student of Bourdelle's Otto Gutfreund. However, the idealised image of this artist was shaken in 1909 by two affairs: Bourdelle's enthusiastic introduction to the exhibition of his friend Jan Dědina, whose mediocre work was out of touch with modern views about art; and his opinion on what to do about the statues on Charles Bridge in Prague that had been destroyed in flooding - Bourdelle took a conservative stance and unlike Czech artists did not support replacing the statues with new works but rather with copies of the old ones.

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