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AUGUSTE RODIN

Paris 1840 – Meudon 1917

FEMME NUE ALLONGÉE

CIRCA 1900

Pencil and stumping on paper

With artist’s stamp ‘Rodin’ (lower right)

19.2 x 30 cm

This work is accompanied by a Certificate of Inclusion in the Catalogue raisonné des dessins et peintures d’Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)by Christina Buley-Uribe, dated 16 May 2018.

Provenance:

Galerie Max Moos, Geneva;

Fritz Meyer-Fierz Collection, Zurich.

Comparative Literature:

A. Schmoll, “Rodin’s Late Drawings and Watercolours”, in E-G. Güse, Auguste Rodin: Drawings and Watercolours, London, 1985.

Judrin, Inventaire des dessins du musée Rodin, vols. I-V, Paris, 1992.

Crone, S. Salzmann (eds.), Rodin: Eros and Creativity, Munich & New York, 1992.

Dabrowski, R. Leopold (eds.), Egon Schiele: The Leopold Collection, Vienna, New York, 1997.

Rodin. Les figures d’Eros. Dessins et aquarelles 1890-1917, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2006.

Viéville et al. (eds.), Rodin 300 dessins 1890-1917: La saisie du modèle, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2011.

Lehni, Rodin: The Secret Museum, Paris, 2018.

The sensual and nervous traits of Femme Nue Allongéeare characteristic of a series of drawings by Auguste Rodin dating from around 1900. Distinguished by a highly-charged eroticism, they were executed in pencil and subtle stumping, according to a technique which the artist had been perfecting from at least 1896.

A Parallel Body of Work

Sketches were first made in almost automatic fashion without looking at the sheet of paper nor losing sight of the model. Roger Marx has felicitously called the results “instantanés”, or snapshots.1 When particularly brilliant, these drawings “made from life” were sometimes re-worked with shading and a more sustained pencil trait, as in the present instance. The decisive component of spontaneity was however never lost. As Rodin himself recalled: “Since I began, I have the impression that I know how to draw. And I know why my drawings have this intensity: it’s because I do not intervene. Between nature and paper, I eliminated talent. I do not reason. I simply let myself go.”2 In fact, unlike some of his predecessors, such as Degas or Manet, Rodin never “arranged” his nudes, the models being normally left the freedom to adopt the pose of their choice.

Having reached full maturity as an artist from the late 1880s, Rodin distanced himself from Michelangelo and the great draughtsmen of the past, whose influence had played such an important role in the first half of his career. He delighted in an almost scandalous exploration of the eroticism that did not escape the notice of his contemporaries.3Only few of the many drawings were reluctantly exhibited. Instead, the vast majority became a “parallel body of work”, autonomous and separate from the sculptures, and one which Rodin himself considered went on to form as “a secret museum”.4

The movement and intense pace of sketching is recorded by the tentative lines caressing the changing contours of the model’s body, in the roughly sketched head increasingly thrown back; in those repetitions that appear to make a virtue out of pentimenti. As noted by Viéville: “Just like the bodies, the faces also escape the habitual modes of representation; they give a new sense to the leçon d’atelier: it is through the flesh as a starting point, with its triviality and all that it reveals with its sensuality and expression that Rodin elaborates his graphic thought.”5

A number of closely related drawings undoubtedly executed around the same time as Femme nue allongée, are in the Musée Rodin, Paris (fig. 1). Both bear an identical artist’s stamp in violet ink, employed between 1914-1917, and comparable stumping highlighting the reclining figure’s limbs. A further accomplished example, also in the Musée Rodin, is Salambô(fig. 2) whose sensual character may be indebted to scenes described in Gustave Flaubert’s eponymous novel.

Rodin, Klimt, Schiele

Rodin’s new technique and his entirely new approach to the nude, find interesting counterparts in the works of the two most daring painters of the early 20thCentury: Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Like Rodin, Klimt also emerged from Symbolism, and made of the female body and exploration of the erotic – free of any moral constraints – one of his artistic priorities, expressed in paintings and an important number of works on paper. Although they met only once – in 1902 – and did not directly influence each other, their oeuvre can be put in direct relation.

On the other hand, Rodin’s influence on Schiele becomes palpable after 1909 in the latter’s partial adoption of the “continuous drawing” technique which the former had perfected. Compare, for instance,Femme nue allongéewith the Viennese artist’s Reclining Nudefrom 1918 (fig. 3) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In a number of Schiele’s most successful drawings “the strong inflection of the line describes the contour of the body, and its volume is emphasized through delicate modelling in gouache and strong accents of red in the face, shoes, and stockings.”6

The Collector

Fritz Meyer-Fierz (1847-1917) a contemporary of Rodin’s, was an industrialist and one of the foremost Swiss art collectors of the late 19thCentury. From the 1880s proceeds from the tobacco trade enabled him to start assembling works of art in earnest. His first interest was in the School of Barbizon, but he soon turned his attention to his own contemporaries, in particular Swiss artists, and was thus described by Paul Ganz as “the first collector of contemporary art in Zurich”. After 1908, Meyer-Fierz began collecting paintings by Vincent van Gogh, purchasing a number of significant oils, including Cypresses(1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

NOTES

1 Quoted in Rodin 300 Dessins…, op. cit., p. 110.

2 Cf. Figures d’Eros, op. cit., p. 50.

See for example the oft quoted passage in E. and J. de Goncourt, Journal. Mémoires de la vie littéraire, vol. 3, Paris, 1956, p. 3.

4N. Lehni, op. cit.,p. 13.

5 D. Viéville, op. cit., p. 112.

6 Egon Schiele…, op. cit., pp. 9 and 25. Rodin’s influence on Schiele was first postulated by A. Elsen, cf. “Drawing and a New Sexual Intimacy: Rodin and Schiele”, in P. Werkner (ed.), Egon Schiele: Art, Sexuality, and Viennese Modernism, Palo Alto, 1994, p. 8.