Lying in the shadow of the Montparnasse Tower in the former home and studio of the artist; Antoine Bourdelle, who was famous for his monumental public statues and friezes, is an exceptional free museum with over 500 works of art.
Antoine Bourdelle was born in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, France in 1861, his artistic talent was noted early and his teacher allowed him to sit separately from other students to explore his creativity.
His father was a cabinet maker and made this table that you see here. Bourdelle, an only child, left school at 13 to become his father’s apprentice and his evenings were spent in art classes learning to draw.
However, he learned more about sculpture at art school and by the age of 24 he had won a scholarship to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris but left a couple of years later, not enjoying the concept of prizes and the discipline.
In 1885 he moved into what is now the museum dedicated to him and won prizes for his large public sculptures and friezes, one of which graces the façade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.
It was around this time that he met and worked for Auguste Rodin as an assistant, to help make ends meet.
In 1905, he was invited to exhibit his works in a gallery on Rue Royale in Paris. This was his first personal exhibition.
It included not only sculptures but also paintings and drawings.
Rodin and Bourdelle instigated a free sculpture school in Montparnasse to aid budding artists and by 1909 he was teaching the likes of Alberto Giacometti. Not bad for an art school drop-out.
His artwork is scattered throughout the surprisingly large museum and gardens, some small and some of monumental proportions.
But it was his studio, found down this quaint laneway and set out exactly the way he had left it, that I enjoyed most of all.
Overlooking a pretty walled garden enhanced by yet more Bourdelle sculptures, the parquetry floorboards creaked under my feet as I tippy-toed around, feeling like an intruder.
Large windows reaching up to the ceiling to allow natural light, a potbelly stove for warmth, his father’s table, a mezzanine floor to allow the artist to view his creations from above and of course his work in bronze, marble and timber, reflecting his skill with different mediums.
Bourdelle died at Le Vésinet, near Paris, on 1 October 1929 and is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse but what an amazing legacy he has left behind for us to admire.
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