I was very pleased to write a second article for the local newspaper, Gloucestershire Echo, during my internship in the Collections department at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum. The Wilson had just put their newly acquired Rodin sculpture on display and I thought this would be a good topic to write about – plus, I had written the gallery label for this artwork, and studied some of Rodin’s later sculptures (and photographs) for my MA dissertation.
This Echo article was published on Saturday 29th August.
Dance Movement E by Auguste Rodin, about 1911, bronze, edition 3 of 11, 430 x 124mm
This striking sculpture, entitled Dance Movement E, captures a full figure in the middle of a lively dance. Designed by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in about 1911, it was never shown in Rodin’s lifetime, but was cast posthumously in bronze. Dance Movement E was given to the art gallery and museum by PJ Crook, President of the Friends of The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, in May 2014 to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Friends.
It is particularly exciting to have the sculpture here at The Wilson as Rodin has several links with Cheltenham. The artist stayed in the town for five weeks in 1914, visiting the art gallery and museum numerous times during his stay. Then nineteen years later, the curator at the time, Mr Herdman, requested that Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss be shown at the art gallery and museum. It was on display for three years before being transferred to the Tate. The Kiss returned to The Wilson last year as a loan for a temporary exhibition, entitled Embrace.
Rodin rarely took traditional anatomical rules or details into consideration. Instead, he created increasingly abstract sculptures, noting the shapes produced by flexible body parts during specific expressive moments. Critics believed that many of Rodin’s creations were merely studies or unfinished works. In contrast, much of the sculpture produced by Rodin’s contemporaries tended to be highly conservative and a large quantity was commissioned by the French government for heroic public monuments. Among his peers, however, were the Impressionists (Rodin and Monet were born the same year), whose innovations in painting moved away from the constraints of classical imperatives. Rodin also moved away from conventional boundaries and his inventive and ‘modern’ approach is one of the reasons why he is one of the best-known sculptors of the late nineteenth century.
It was Rodin’s novel subject matter as well as his style that made his art stand out and appear radical. For instance, as his sculpture Dance Movement E suggests, Rodin was inspired by modern dance. In particular he was fascinated by Alda Moreno, an acrobat and dancer at the Opéra Comique, Paris, who became his regular model from 1910 to 1913. This subject marks one of his later, and largely private, prolific investigations; indeed, Dance Movement E is one of a series of nine figures that are individually labelled from A to I.
We are delighted that now, over one hundred years on from Rodin’s visit to Cheltenham, we can enjoy another of his sculptures here, as part of the art gallery and museum’s collection. You can see Dance Movement E on display in the Friends Gallery at The Wilson, a venue managed by The Cheltenham Trust.