EMILE-ANTOINE BOURDELLE

Biography

Montauban 1861 - Le Vésinet 1929

Son of a carpenter and cabinetmaker, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle early showed a gift for drawing. Aged 13, Bourdelle joined his father's studio as an apprentice. In the evening, he took drawing classes in Montauban, where he learned modelling techniques. In 1876, he was given a scholarship and passed the entrance examination for the Toulouse School of Fine Arts.

In 1884, Bourdelle was admitted at the Paris School of Fine Arts and entered Alexandre Falguière's studio he left two years later.
In 1885, he moved into the studio on 16, impasse du Maine - which is now the museum. That same year, his paster cast of La Première victoire d'Hannibal won a medal at the Salon of French Artists.
In 1893, Rodin hired him as a "praticien" (sculptor's assistant) and the collaboration proved to be a decisive one.

In 1900, Bourdelle decorated the theatre of the Grevin Museum, at the request of its director, Gabriel Thomas, with masks and a low relief for the top of the stage : Les Nuées. That year, with Rodin and the sculptor Desbois, he founded a free sculpture school in Montparnasse. In his attempt to find his own way, Bourdelle freed himself from the style of Rodin.
In 1905, the foundry owner Hébrard invited him to exhibit in his Parisian gallery on Rue Royale. The artist's first personal exhibition included 39 sculptures, 18 paintings and 21 drawings. Bourdelle also exhibited at the Salon d'Automne for the first time. He left Rodin's studio in 1908.
In 1909, Bourdelle started teaching at the Grande Chaumière Academy, where his students included Alberto Giacometti, Germaine Richier or Vieira da Silva.
Exhibited in 1910 at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts, Bourdelle's Héraklès archer (Hercules the Archer) was acclaimed by the public and the critics. Many museums asked to display the masterpiece and it was reproduced everywhere, even in children's school books.
Gabriel Thomas gave Bourdelle another commission, this time for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (1910-1913).

The decade of 1919-1929 proved a time of great official commissions : La Vierge à l'offrande (The Virgin of the offering) (1919-1923) erected in Alsace and La France (France) (1925) in front of the Grand Palais for the Decorative Arts Exhibition. The Monument au général Alvéar (Monument to general Alvear) was inaugurated in Buenos Aires in 1926, and the Monument à Adam Mickiewic (Monument to Adam Mickiewic) in Paris, on 28 April 1929.

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