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« THIS MAN IS MICHELANGELO » OCTAVE MIRBEAU, AUGUSTE RODIN AND THE IMAGE OF THE MODERN SCULPTOR
"I tell you, Monsieur, this man is Michelangelo and you don't know him." 1 With those words a writer directly equated Auguste Rodin with Michelangelo for the first time in the ress. !cta"e Mir#eau enned the hrase in an 1$$% column for the right& wing 'ournal Le Gaulois and would continue to style Rodin as Michelangelo for the rest of the decade. As much a romoter as he was an art 'ournalist, Mir#eau's fundamental role in Rodin's o ular acce tance as an artist has #een largely understudied #y art historians. While other writers, nota#ly (usta"e (eoffroy, )argenty, and *ouis de +ourcaud cham ioned Rodin's work throughout the 1$$,'s, Mir#eau offered the general audience a means to understand and acce t Rodin's re"olutionary a roach to the human figure through the lens of Michelangelo. When Mir#eau e"oked Michelangelo as an e-am le of the res onsi"e modern artist, he did nothing unusual in terms of nineteenth century rhetoric. .e, like other writers #efore, attri#uted the general qualities o ularly ascri#ed to modern art, namely/ intense in"ol"ement with contem orary issues and the willingness to e- ress one's own assions, to Michelangelo and to the ainter )elacroi-. .e then used these artists to create a "alid, coherent, and meaningful artistic heritage for Rodin. While Mir#eau and other early critics were astonished #y Rodin's naturalistic a roach to the human figure, Mir#eau's initial association of Rodin and Michelangelo was #roadly thematic. 0his a er traces the history of Mir#eau's writing on the su#'ect of Rodin as the modern Michelangelo and delineates its de#t to the writings of the Romantic author 1tendhal. Although #est&known today as a no"elist, Mir#eau emerged as an art romoter, ad"ocate and cultural gadfly in 0hird Re u#lic 2aris. Working as a stock#roker and writing for conser"ati"e 'ournals after the +ranco&2russian War, he was firmly entrenched in the ideals and olitics of the monarchist cam . 3"entually, the e"olution of his social and olitical sentiments led him to anarchism, a osition he es oused for the rest of his life. As his alliances and interests shifted, so did his affiliation with the "arious 2arisian 'ournals of the day. .e #egan his career writing for the conser"ati"e Le Figaro, and the monarchist Le Gaulois, #ut would u#lish in rogressi"e 'ournals such as La Plume and La Revue blanche at the end.4 )uring this eriod of change, Mir#eau frequented the ateliers of 2arisian artists, undertaking what Anne 2ingeot has descri#ed as his self&education in the arts.5 In the 2arisian art world Mir#eau #ecame a remarka#ly effecti"e marchandcritique.% 6ot sim ly an art 'ournalist, Mir#eau was a romoter touting Rodin in the ress, making the scul tor's work alata#le to the u#lic, and organi7ing e-hi#itions. 8y the mid&nineteenth century, new art galleries and other e-hi#ition "enues had s rung u
all o"er 2aris and readers wanted art 'ournalists and critics, like Mir#eau, to oint out the e-traordinary and e-citing work to #e found amid the more mundane e-am les. Mir#eau was a owerful ad"ocate always seeking a scandal to denounce or an unknown artist to defend and romote. .is friend and associate, (usta"e (eoffroy, summed u the contradictions and transformations of Mir#eau when he commented, ".e's a curious case. Alternati"ely a man of letters and a man of #usiness. Monsieur !cta"e Mir#eau will end #y esta#lishing himself as a storefront ro het on the 8oule"ard des 9a ucines.": While others may ha"e racticed more nuanced art criticism, Mir#eau's enthusiasm and enchant for u#licity #rought attention to his su#'ects and himself. In the end, many would agree with (eoffroy that Mir#eau ossessed a remarka#le a#ility to en"ision the future of +rench art. 0he first meeting of Mir#eau and Rodin is undocumented, and they may not ha"e met #y 1$$% when Mir#eau introduced the scul tor to the readers of Le Gaulois. Mir#eau must ha"e known Rodin #y re utation following the u#lic contro"ersy concerning the Age of 8ron7e and his su#sequent commission to create the Gates of Hell for the ro osed Mus;e des Art );coratifs. 9ertainly, the two had #ecome acquainted #y the winter of 1$$: when Mir#eau "isited Rodin's atelier #efore u#lishing the first full descri tion of the Gates of Hell. 0he two men would maintain an association throughout their li"es with Mir#eau romoting the work of his scul tor until the end. When Mir#eau #egan to romote Rodin in the ress, he faced the difficulty of making his scul ture understanda#le and acce ta#le to his readers. +or the citi7ens of 0hird Re u#lic 2aris, scul ture layed an im ortant role in their e"eryday li"es. 0he scul ture of ma'or u#lic monuments thri"ed in 0hird Re u#lic 2aris leading an unsym athetic critic to descri#e the im ulse to commission these works as "statuomanie." All of these ro'ects taught the general u#lic #y their e-am le the qualities of elegance, ower and decorum that scul ture should ossess. Rodin's figures for all of their e- ressi"eness would always ha"e an uneasy relationshi with these e- ectations. In many res ects scul ture remained go"erned #y the requirements e- ounded #y )enis )iderot in his 1alon of 1<=: when he descri#ed the art's ""iolent, #ut secreti"e and silent muse." )iderot's reca itulation of the paragone, the de#ate concerning ainting's su eriority to scul ture, ersisted in discussions concerning the nature of scul ture throughout the nineteenth century. In that 1alon, )iderot argued that a ainter could " aint whate"er >he? wants@ >#ut? scul tureAse"ere, gra"e, chaste must choose." 1o scul ture should #e . . . "olu tuous #ut ne"er lewd. In a "olu tuous mode it retains something that's refined, rarefied, e-quisite, . . . 1cul ture requires an enthusiasm that's more o#stinate and dee &seated, more of a kind of "er"e that seems strong and tranquil, more of this co"ered, hidden fire that #urns within@ its muse is "iolent, #ut secreti"e and silent. = 0he clear distinctions )iderot drew #etween the arts of ainting and scul ture were codified in 1$1< #y statesman and historian +ranBois (ui7ot in his "3ssay on the limits that se arate and #onds that unite the fine arts." .e, like )iderot, argued that scul ture was meant to re resent emotions and actions distilled into disci lined, unified forms while ainting could offer the "iewer dramatic motion and acti"ity with the "er"e and immediacy denied to scul ture. < In that same year, 1tendhal commented that, "1cul ture as a medium is limited to e- ressing hysical a earances through the muscles. 0hus full&si7e statues can only re resent ermanent characteristics or emotions that ha"e #ecome ha#itual." .e concluded that forms could therefore #e only "slightly modified" #y emotions.$
+igure 1. .enri 9ha u, Joan of Arc Listening to Voices, 1$<5. Mar#le. 2aris, Mus;e dC!rsay
+igure 4. 3mmanuel +r;miet, Joan of Arc, 1$<%. 8ron7e. 2aris, 2lace des 2yramides 9ertainly this aradigm of scul ture remained in lace as late as 1$$% when the critic Andr; Michel, writing for L Art, descended into the scul ture garden of the 1alon of 1$$% to mingle among the heroic o ulation of the statues for a moment. .ere, to s eak like )iderot, is the realm of the ""iolent, #ut silent and secret muse." . . . her language of se"ere and naked logic, confined #y certain and infle-i#le rules, >is? de ri"ed of all seductions and of all those charms of ainting. . . . What #uyers will >the scul tor? find in a society like ours, a art from the 1tate and munici alities.D 0he outmoded thinking a#out scul ture e- ressed in )iderot's 1<=: 1alon and sardonically restated #y Andr; Michel in 1$$% ultimately led to frustration for scul tors and critics alike. While many critics "iewed the art's intransigence as a consequence of its "ery nature, another force moti"ating its conser"atism was social and economic. 1cul ture was a#o"e all u#lic art and, as Eules +erry remarked in 1$<D, its " rinci al
client >was? the go"ernment."1, Illustrati"e of the u#lic commissions of that eriod were .enri 9ha u's Joan of Arc Listening to Voices, in the Mus;e du *u-em#ourg F1$<,&<5G, and 3mmanuel +r;miet's heroic equestrian #ron7e Joan of Arc F1$<4&<%G laced in the 2lace des 2yramides Ffigs. 1 and 4G. 0he elegant figures are thematically and hysically contained. 0heir closed narrati"es and still, concentrated forms, im lying motion while manifesting stillness, clearly recall the dicta of )iderot and the demands of the traditions of official +rench art. 0he many u#lic monuments of nineteenth& century 2aris came from the hands of scul tors who acceded to these aesthetic requirements. )iderot's descri tion summari7ed some general e- ectations for scul ture in +rance, #ut it certainly did not go unchallenged. When Mir#eau styled Rodin as Michelangelo, there was nothing no"el a#out the com arison or the e"ocation of Michelangelo as the ultimate antidote to the classicism of Ra hael and the Academic a roach. +or e-am le, in 1$1< 1tendhal u#lished his Histor! of Painting in "tal!, called the "Horan of Romantic ainters" #y 3.&E. )el;clu7e.11 0he #ook's characteri7ation of Michelangelo, in articular, offered readers a model for the modern, Romantic artist. Its rofound im act affected artists like 3ugIne )elacroi- who modeled himself on Michelangelo, and writers such as Jmile Kola. 1tendhal "iewed Michelangelo as the rototy e of the new artist who would e- ress the tur#ulence and assion of the nineteenth century. In his #ook, he called for a new Michelangelo, e-horting the reader to recogni7e that/ >f?or two centuries a so&called code of etiquette roscri#ed strong assions, and, #y re ressing them, finally stifled them/ they only sur"i"ed in country "illages. 0he nineteenth century is going to restore these assions to their rightful lace. If a Michelangelo were #orn in our enlightened days, imagine what heights he might achie"eL What torrent of new sensations and leasures he would release among a u#lic already well rimed #y the theatre and no"elsL 2erha s he would create a modern scul ture and com el the art to e- ress assion, if indeed it can e- ress assion. At least Michelangelo would make scul ture e- ress the soul's moods. . . Macduff's taut features when he asks to hear how his children were murdered, !thello after killing )esdemona, Romeo and Euliet waking u together in the tom# . . . Aall these would a ear in mar#le and 9lassical antiquity would dro to second lace.14 1tendhal's Michelangelo learned from the 9lassical models of antiquity and then turned to nature as his model, creating a new art that e- ressed the tumult of his age. Most im ortantly in 1tendhal's "iew, Michelangelo's art was entirely contingent u on the social and cultural conditions of its time. Rather than looking #ack, the modern artists of the nineteenth century would, like Michelangelo, reach into themsel"es and their world to create e"ocati"e, modern scul ture. 0hey would take cold mar#leAthe locus of 9lassical e- ression without eerAand com el it to e- ress the torrent of emotion found in the literature of 1hakes eare with the immediacy re"iously ascri#ed only to ainting. 0he writer, who would later cham ion Romantic ainters like )elacroi-, could not identify his modern Michelangelo where scul ture was concerned. 0hat artist and their scul ture e-isted only as a formless idea.
+igure 5. 3ugIne )elacroi-, #ichelangelo in his $tudio, 1$:,. Mont ellier, Mus;e +a#re 0his inter retation of Michelangelo and the nature of modernism remained central to discussions a#out the future of +rench art. 1tendhal's critical osition was not new. 0he writer took u the 9lassic "ersus Modern de#ate that had #een central to +rench art criticism since the 1<th century and like others laced "alue on contem oraneity. 8y the ad"ent of 1tendhal's era, #eing of one's own time, as Michelangelo had #een, was "iewed not merely as a ossi#le good #ut as a ositi"e ad"antage.15 +or e-am le, )elacroi-'s self identification with Michelangelo was well known. Indeed he had gi"en it hysical form in #ichelangelo in His $tudio F1$:,G, in which the ainter's #iogra her 1il"estre noted that Michelangelo wore a white scarf wra ed around his neck in the manner of )elacroi- Ffig. 5G. 1% In 1$==, Jmile Kola de#ated the nature of a work of art with .i olyte 0aineAthen rofessor of art and aesthetics at the Jcole des 8eau-&Arts. Kola argued that originality, the re"elation of an artist's tem erament, ga"e a work meaning. In the modern era, "unanimity of artistic #eliefs is no more," he commented, "art di"ides and #ecomes indi"idual. It is Michelangelo raising u his giants #efore the Mirgins of Ra hael@ it is )elacroi#reaking the lines that M. Ingres straightens out." 1: 9rucially for Mir#eau, howe"er, 1tendhal's Michelangelo did not re'ect tradition com letely #ut instead ut it aside in fa"or of modernity. 0he link to tradition was reser"ed e"en though the style was re'ected. 0his was critical #ecause it ermitted the e- ensi"e and conser"ati"e art of scul ture to mo"e forward without a#andoning its ast. In this en"ironment, rogressi"e scul tors had occasionally found success while others remained in o#scurity or e- erienced condemnation. 1ome 1alon 'uries were more li#eral than others and o"er the years many styles of scul ture found a lace in official e-hi#itions. 1till, the art was e- ected to e- ress the gra"ity, refinement and outer tranquility descri#ed #y )iderot. 0heoretically at least, +rench scul ture ossessed a single unified "oice. Nngainly oses, fugiti"e gestures, fluent modeling, and a sense of immediacy rather than timelessnessAall qualities of Rodin's scul tureAwere out of the mainstream. 8y the mid&1$$,s though, the mainstream was hard to detect. With the ad"ent of the artist&run 1alons all of the rules and e- ectations seemed u for de#ate. 0he art that had e- ressed the will of the +rench state was in disarray. In 1$$5 and 1$$%, writers e- ressed their frustration and dismay o"er the state of +rench scul ture. 0his desire for unity was a#ly e- ressed #y two writers, *ouis de +ourcaud and )argenty. Re"iewing the
1alon of 1$$% for the Ga%ette des &eau'-Arts, +ourcaud commented, "the di"ision is e-treme and the indecision is e"en worse. Oou see nym hs to the right, easants to the left. 0he nym hs are no longer com letely classic@ the easants are still not realistic. What ath does one followP !ne ursues truth, #ut no one knows what truth is right for scul ture."1= In 1$$5, )argenty re"iewed the 1$$5 3- osition 6ationale for the rogressi"e 'ournal L Art. .e ut it sim ly, telling his readers, "6ational art is dead . . . 0oday confusion is e"erywhere."1< While the state of +rench scul ture in general frustrated #oth critics, they found ho e in the work of Auguste Rodin whose work they could clearly identify as modern. )argenty and *ouis de +ourcaud, among others, #egan to raise Rodin's resolutely truthful ortrait #usts and his im laca#ly naturalistic a roach to the human figure. In his work, these critics recogni7ed +rench scul ture's new direction.
+igure %. Auguste Rodin, Age of &ron%e, 1$<=. 8ron7e. Washington, ).9., 6ational (allery of Art
+igure :. Auguste Rodin, $t( John the &aptist Preaching, 1$<$. 8ron7e. 2aris, Mus;e dC!rsay
+igure =. Auguste Rodin, )he Gates of Hell, 1$$,&1D1<. 2laster. 2aris, Mus;e dC!rsay In his re"iew of the 3- osition 6ationale of 1$$5, )argenty singled out Rodin's Age of &ron%e and $t( John the &aptist Preaching for raise while lamenting the fate that generally awaited such figures Ffigs. % and :G. 0hey were the work of an artist who "ne"er went to school, ne"er #elonged to any coterie, had no master at all, he makes scul ture #ecause one day his thought germinated in that form."1$ 3m loying the ty ology of the natural, unschooled artist, )argenty made it clear that he had recogni7ed the artist who, like Masari's (iotto, would lead +rench scul ture in a new direction. .e clearly echoed Kola when he descri#ed Rodin as a scul tor who "lets himself go, >and? follows the im ulses of his tem erament." As a measure of their critical rece tion #y the 'ury, he informed the reader that the two figures were "relegated like le ers in an isolation room, #oth allowed to "egetate, languish, mold in their rison, li"ing rotests #ut owerless against the worthless artiality of a #lind 'ury." Although he #elie"ed that Rodin re resented the new ath for +rench scul ture, he did not antici ate success for Rodin. Nltimately the 'ury would "quickly turn >its? #ack on >Rodin?, and laugh at his resum tion, take ity on him and lea"e him to star"e alone with his talent." 1D While he su orted Rodin, it was difficult for )argenty to #elie"e that scul ture would or could mo"e forward as an art. )argenty associated Rodin with his own hero, )elacroi-. +or )argenty, )elacroi- remained the model of the modern artist and in 1$$5 was ""ery near to >them? still, this "aliant, indomita#le oet, inaccessi#le to weakness or discouragement, who struggled in illness, oor and alone, against the uni"ersal coalition of ainters and the u#lic."4, Rodin's struggle, in )argenty's rhetoric, mirrored )elacroi-'s willingness to challenge con"ention. In 1$$: )argenty u#lished *elacroi'+ par lui-m,me, and in that same year Mir#eau echoed )argenty and associated Rodin with )elacroi-. 8y the time Mir#eau introduced the readers of Le Gaulois to the new Michelangelo in )ecem#er 1$$%, )argenty's re"iew had already a eared. 0wo months later in +e#ruary 1$$:, Mir#eau's most famous article a#out the scul tor, "Auguste Rodin," a eared in La France, quickly following the Le Gaulois iece, and ro"ided the first com lete descri tion of )he Gates of Hell Ffig =G. Mir#eau set the scul ture in conte-t for his reader with a com arison to (hi#erti's Gates of Paradise and )ante's *ivine -omed! as the source of the imagery. Identifying 0he 0hinker at the cornice as )ante, he commented that it reminded him of Michelangelo's 2enseurAthe *oren7o figure from the Medici 9ha el. )es ite the clear affinity #etween the two
figures, Mir#eau did not turn to Michelangelo as a oint of com arison for Rodin, choosing )elacroi- instead. 0hat s ring a )elacroi- e-hi#ition was scheduled to o en at the 8eau-&Arts and )argenty's own *elacroi'+ par lui-m,me would #e u#lished. 0he u coming e-hi#ition and )argenty's own in"ocation of )elacroi- in his 1$$5 3- osition 6ationale re"iew may ha"e fired Mir#eau's rhetoric. Mir#eau em hasi7ed )elacroi-'s emotionalism and his in"ol"ement with this own time as the commonality #etween Rodin and )elacroi-. Mir#eau quoted directly from 0h;o hile 1il"estre's 1$:: #iogra hy of )elacroi- noting ">o?ne can say of Rodin what 0h;o hile 1il"estre once said of )elacroi-, #ecause these two geniuses are of the same ancestry."41 In 1il"estre's #iogra hy one finds the early model for Mir#eau's characteri7ation of Rodin, ultimately rooted in the writing of 1tendhal. +rom 1tendhal, 1il"estre took the #edrock notion that a modern artist would o enly e- ress the torrent of emotions that characteri7ed the nineteenth century. Mir#eau a lied that inter retation to Rodin #y quoting 1il"estre's writing directly in his own essay/ "What makes )elacroi- one of the greatest artists of the nineteenth century, is that he unites faculties of the ainter, the oet and the historian. .e sows assions on his can"as and in the s ectator's soul like fatal seeds, with an a#undance that astonishes the dramatist . . . .e seduces and trans orts the haughty intellectuals and the ad"enturous souls, one #y one, with the lo"e of the #eautiful and the heroic, #y audacity, ruse, strength and no#ility. .e is es ecially the man of our time, full of moral illnesses, of #etrayed e- ectation, of sarcasm, anger and tears. Ignorance and en"y ha"e not sto ed in his career and will ne"er re"ail against him #efore osterity."44 0he link #etween 1tendhal, 1il"estre, and Mir#eau is remarka#ly trans arent. 1tendhal's modern Michelangelo would "com el scul ture to e- ress the soul's moods" in the manner of )ante or 1hakes eare while 1il"estre's )elacroi- "astonished the dramatist." In 1tendhal's "iew, Michelangelo would restore assion to its rightful lace and e- ress a "torrent of new sensations and leasures," while )elacroi-, "the man of our time," was full of moral illness, #etrayed e- ectation, sarcasm, anger and tears. 0he conce tion of #oth artists as modern, with the attendant im lications of emotionalism and originality, had its root in 1tendhal's descri tion of Michelangelo and for Mir#eau to s eak of )elacroi- was to s eak of Michelangelo. Mir#eau's construction of Rodin as the modern Michelangelo achie"ed its full form in 1$$D with the Monet&Rodin e-hi#ition organi7ed #y Mir#eau at the (aleries (eorges 2etit. Mir#eau wrote a catalogue essay on Monet for the show and re"ailed u on his associate, the 6aturalist critic (usta"e (eoffroy, to re rint an essay on Rodin that had a eared in Revue des Lettres et des Arts.45 As they re ared the catalogue essays, Mir#eau wrote to (eoffroy that he had made "a rather curious o#ser"ation a#out Michelangelo. It seems to redict Rodin . . . 0his aragra h that I'"e called your attention to might #e of use."4% 0hat aragra h was 1tendhal's 1$1< call for a modern Michelangelo. (eoffroy a ended the aragra h as an e igra h #ut did not de"elo the theme #ut, when read in the conte-t of Mir#eau's in"ol"ement, it gains significance. In this quote from 1tendhal, directly referenced #y Mir#eau, we unco"er the fundamental #asis of his conce t of Michelangelo as a critical term and it is dou#tful that Mir#eau had come across it serendi itously.
0o clarify his osition, Mir#eau e- anded on the theme of Michelangelo and Rodin in L .cho de Paris. Writing a#out the Monet&Rodin e-hi#ition of Eune 1$$D, Mir#eau ro"ided the essay on Rodin that he erha s wanted (eoffroy to write. .e told his readers e- licitly, "In 1$1<, 1tendhal had foreseen Auguste Rodin. In one of these "isions of the intellectual future of the race, as ha ened so often for this dee mind, he clearly descri#ed this art that had not yet #een #orn, and that he did not ha"e the 'oy to see achie"ed in these magnificent works." .e continued/ Indeed, it is the art of Rodin summari7ed in these few lines of 1tendhal, #ut not all the art of this restigious scul tor. 8ecause Rodin e- ressed more than assion, he e- ressed thought. .e did e"en more than 1tendhal himself would ha"e #elie"ed ossi#le, he synthesi7ed with unforgetta#le conce tions, more eloquently than any writer, more ersuasi"ely than any sychologist, the state of contem orary soul and the moral illness of the century. As a worshi er of the eternal #eauty of antique form, initiator of a thousand hysical attitudes, regenerator of the lastic arts, without #reaking the equili#rium of the #ody, while endowing art with new #eauties, he was not only a#le to force the mar#le to twist in ain and leasure, he was a#le to force it to shout the su reme suffering of modern negati"ity, to cry the de"ouring tears of the una eased and human failings, of the ideal in the ideal, until it lies in nothingness. What is mo"ing in Rodin's faces, is that we find oursel"es again in them, we see our disenchantments reflected there@ it is that, according to a #eautiful e- ression of M. 1t; hane Mallarm;, "they are our grie"ing friends."4: .ere Rodin's scul ture emerged as the direct fulfillment of a century&long desire for a new kind of +rench scul ture. While he claimed that Rodin e-ceeded the "ision of 1tendhal, Mir#eau re"erted to the earlier writer's rhetoric. Mir#eau, like 1il"estre #efore him, reiterated 1tendhal's definition of the modern artist . Rodin, in Mir#eau's terms, e- ressed "the moral illness of the century" and forced mar#le to "shout the su reme suffering of modern negati"ity" while crying the "de"ouring tears of the una eased and human failings." 1tendhal's modern scul tor would restore assion to its rightful lace, as his Michelangelo had done, and com el the art to e- ress strong emotion. In 1tendhal's conce tion of Michelangelo, the artist had im#i#ed the 9lassical tradition and then grew to create a new art, 'ust as Rodin worshi ed "the eternal #eauty of antique form," and "without #reaking the equili#rium of the #ody" ushed it to e- ress modern assions. Mir#eau's conce tion of Rodin as the modern Michelangelo first announced in )ecem#er 1$$% #ecame crystalli7ed and owerful #y 1$$D. Mir#eau's efforts aid off handsomely in the ress as writers re eatedly referred to Rodin in those terms after the 1$$D article. In Le -ourrier du soir, one writer commented that there was no recedent for Rodin #ut turned to Michelangelo/ ");'Q& "u," he wrote, "with Rodin that im ressionAthat critiqueAdoes not e-ist, there are no antecedents to in"oke, no name comes to the memory, no com arison is ossi#le, the history of all times in all countries has no similar e-am le in art. !ne large shadow emerges, Michelangelo."4= !thers like +ernand 8ourgeat writing in L /ntr acte re eated the general association of Rodin and Michelangelo. "I don't need to s eak a#out the man/ he is known," he commented ". . . the u#lic knows all a#out the #attles that our
modern Michelangelo has su#mitted to."4< !ne gauge of the success of Mir#eau's characteri7ation of Rodin is W.9. 8rownell's 1D,1 article "Auguste Rodin," in $cribner s. 1e"enteen years after Mir#eau du##ed him Michelangelo for the first time, 8rownell found it necessary to comment on the henomenon and clearly distinguish Rodin's a roach to scul ture from that of his redecessor/ .e has #een called a +rench Michael Angelo FsicG, and the e ithet, though quite erroneous, is a ser"icea#le one to illustrate 'ust the oint I desire to make . . . .e is a arallel, #ut neither an imitator nor a follower of Michael Angelo. In other words, his tem erament is in some measure analogous to the great +lorentine, #ut his art is his own R4$ 8rownell's comment attests to the success of Mir#eau's writing. 8y 1D,1, 8rownell found it necessary to loosen the tie #etween the two artists first de"elo ed #y Mir#eau. 9uriously, unlike 8rownell, Mir#eau seldom discussed Rodin's own stylistic de#t to Michelangelo, which the scul tor o enly acknowledged and other critics clearly recogni7ed. Indeed Rodin's use of o"erall designs #orrowed from Michelangelo was the su#'ect of a recent e-hi#ition in +lorence and 2hiladel hia, Rodin and #ichelangelo+ A $tud! in Artistic "nspiration F1DD=G, and need not #e reca itulated here. Instead, Mir#eau chose to offer his readers an effecti"e thematic way to understand Rodin's art and the tradition from which it s rang. In Mir#eau's writing the term Michelangelo ser"ed as a meta hor to signify the modern and to reference a distinguished scul tural lineage. When the readers of Le Gaulois first encountered the name Rodin in 1$$%, the scul tor could ha"e little e- ectation of o ular success #ut #y 1$$D he was argua#ly the #est&known scul tor in +rance. In no small measure this came a#out #ecause !cta"e Mir#eau found a way to think a#out Rodin that his readers could understand immediately. Rather than #eing the com lete outsider with no distinguished artistic edigree, as he had #een for most of his career, Rodin could now #e seen as the inheritor of the mantle of Michelangelo. 6ineteenth&9entury Art Worldwide, 1 ring 4,,=
Nnless otherwise noted the translations are #y the author. 1. !cta"e Mir#eau, "*'Indiscretion," Le Gaulois, )ecem#er 1:, 1$$%. "Il e-iste dans 2aris un scul teur que "ous ne connaisse7 as, car il ne ressem#le en rien Q ceu- que "ous recommande7 et que "ous aime7. Ayant du g;nie, il est resque au"re, mais, comme ceu- qui sont trIs riches et dont on dit qu'ils ne connaissent as leur fortune, lui ne connaSt as sa au"ret;. Eamais il n'entendit arler du Figaro@ il ignore mTmeAc'est eut&Ttre our celaAque "ous e-iste7REe "ous le dis, Monsieur, cet homme est Michel&Ange, et "ous ne le connaisse7 as." 4. 0he rinci al #iogra hy of !cta"e Mir#eau remains Martin 1chwar7, 0ctave #irbeau1 vie et oeuvre F0he .ague/ Mouton, 1D==G. +or a discussion of Mir#eau's olitical e"olution, see Reg 9arr, Anarchism in France+ )he case of 0ctave #irbeau FMontreal/ Mc(ill&Uueen's Nni"ersity 2ress, 1D<<G. 5. Anne 2ingeot, "Rodin et Mir#eau," in -olloque 0ctave #irbeau 2 Actes June 3443 FArc&et& 1Venans/ Jditions du )emi&9ercle, 1DD%G, 11%. %. Eean&2aul 8ouillon, La Promenade du critique influent + Anthologie de la critique d art en France 3567-3477 F2aris/ .a7an, 1DD,G, 5,4. :. (usta"e (eoffroy, La Justice, Euly 5,, 1$$5. =. )enis )iderot, *iderot on Art, "ol. 1, trans. and ed. Eohn (oodman F*ondon and 6ew .a"en/ Oale Nni"ersity 2ress, 1DD:G, 1:D.
<. +ranBois (ui7ot, .tudes sur les &eau'-Arts F2aris/ )idier et cie., 1$:4G, :<. $. 1tendhal, $tendhal and the Arts, ed. and trans. )a"id Wakefield F*ondon/ 2haidon, 1D<5G, :: D. Andr; Michel, "*e 1alon de 1$$%," L Art, t. 4, 1$$%, 51W54. "Rde nous mTler un moment au eu le h;roXque des statues. 9'est ici, our arler comme )iderot, le royaume de 'la Muse "iolente, mais silencieuse et cach;e.' Rson langage, fait de logique s;"Ire et nue, astreint Q des rIgles infle-i#les et certaines, ri"; de toutes les s;ductions et de tous les Q eu rIs charmants de la eintureRUuels acheteurs trou"era&t&il dans une soci;t; comme la nYtre, en dehors de l'Jtat et des munici alit;s." 1,. 2atricia Mainardi, )he /nd of the $alon+ Art and the $tate in the /arl! )hird Republic F9am#ridge/ 9am#ridge Nni"ersity 2ress, 1DD%G, 1%4. 11. 1tendhal, $tendhal and the Arts, $1. 14. 1tendhal, Histoire de la peinture en "talie F2aris/ 2. )idot, 1$1<G re rint, "ol. 4=, 8uvres compl9tes, gen. eds. Mictor del *itto and 3rnest A#ra"anel F2aris/ 9ercle du 8i#lio hile, 1D=DG, 1$DWD1. ")e uis deu- siIcles une r;tendue olitesse roscri"ait les assions fortes, et, Q force de les com rimer, elles les a"ait an;anties/ !n ne les trou"ait lus que dans les "illages. *e di-&neu"iIme "a leur rendre leurs droits. 1i un Michel&Ange nous ;tait donn; en nos 'ours de lumiIre, oZ ne ar"iendrait&il ointP Uuel torrent de sensations nou"elles et de 'ouissances ne r; andrait&il as dans un u#lic si #ien r; ar; ar the th;Vtre et les romansL 2eut&Ttre cr;erait&il une scul ture moderne, eut&Ttre forcerait&il cet art Q e- rimer les assions, si toutefois les assions lui con"iennent. )u moins Michel&Ange lui ferait&il e- rimer les ;tats de l'Vme. *a tTte de 0ancrIde, a rIs la mort de 9lorinde, ImogIne a renant l'infid;lit; de 2osthumus, la douce hysionomie d'.erminie arri"ant che7 les #ergers, les trait contract;s de Macduff demandant l'histoire du meurtre de ses etits enfants, !thello a rIs a"oir tu; )esd;mona, le grou e de Rom;o et Euliette se r;"eillant dans le tom#eau, Ngo et 2arisina ;coutant leur arrTt de la #ouche de 6iccolo, araStraient sur le mar#re, et l'antique tom#erait au second rang." 15. *inda 6ochlin, Realism F6ew Oork/ 2enguin, 1D<=G, 1,5W%. 1%. Eack E. 1 ector, "An Inter retation of )elacroi-'s #ichelangelo in his $tudio," Ps!choanal!tic Perspectives on Art, ed. Mary Mathews (edo F.illsdale 6E/ 0he Analytic 2ress, 1D$:G, 11=. 1:. Jmile Kola, "M. 0aine, Artiste," #es haines+ causeries litt:raires et artistiques F1$<D@ re rint, (ene"a/ 1latkine Re rints, 1D<DG, 44:&W4=. 1=. *ouis de +ourcaud, "*e 1alon de 1$$%," Ga%ette des &eau' Arts, 4nd ser., 5,, F1$$%G, :=. 1<. )argenty, "*e 1alon 6ational," L Art, art % F1$$%G, 5=. 1$. I#id., 5<. 1D. I#id. "Run artiste dans le "rai sens du mot >qui? se laisse aller, suit l'im ulsion de son tem ;rament, s'il ;"ite de regarder les autres, crainte de se fondre en eu-@ s'il conser"e son int;grit;, si ses qualit;s et ses d;fauts son Q lui, #ien Q lui, si ce ne sont ni les d;fauts ni les qualit;s de l';cole, s'il se r;sente naX"ement Q "ous, disant/ Euge&moi, 'e suis ce que 'e suis, on le tient our un fou, on se hVte de lui tourner le dos, on rit de son outrecuidance, on le rend en iti; et on le laisse cre"er de faim en tIte&Q& tIte a"ec son talent." 4,. )argenty, "*e 1alon 6ational," 5<. 41. !cta"e Mir#eau, "Auguste Rodin," La France, +e#ruary 1$, 1$$:. 44. I#id. "!n eut dire de Rodin ce que 0h;o hile 1il"estre disait 'adis de )elacroi- Q qui l'on eut com arer, car ce sont deu- g;nies de mTme race/ '9e qui fait de )elacroi- un des lus grands artistes du [I[\su ]e\^su ] siIcle, c'est qu'il r;unit les facult;s du eintre, du oIte et de l'historien. Il sIme, a"ec une a#ondance qui ;tonne le dramaturge, les assions sur sa toile et dans l'Vme du s ectateur comme des graines funestes. Il ra elle Rem#randt ar l'e- ression des hysionomies@ M;ronIse ar l'es rit, la finesse, le charme de la couleur@ Ru#ens ar la s lendeur des d;corations et la crVnerie de la main@ Michel&Ange ar le grandiose, et Ri#era ar le terri#le. Il s;duit et em orte tour Q tour les intelligences hautaines et les c_urs a"entureu- ar l'amour du #eau et de l'h;roXque, ar l'audace, la ruse, la force et la no#lesse. Il est surtout l'homme de notre tem s, lein de maladies morales, d'es ;rances trahies, de sarcasmes, de colIres et de leurs. *'ignorance et l'en"ie ne l'ont as un instant arrTt; dans sa carriIre et ne r;"audront 'amais contre lui de"ant la ost;rit;.'"
45. (usta"e (eoffroy, "Auguste Rodin," in -laude #onet 2 Auguste Rodin+ -entenaire de l e'position de 3554. 3-h. cat. F2aris/ Mus;e Rodin, 1D$DG, :<. 4%. !cta"e Mir#eau, -ombats esth:tiques, "ol. 1, ed. 2ierre Michel and Eean&+ranBois 6i"et F2aris/ 1;guier, 1DD5G, 5$=. 4:. !cta"e Mir#eau, "Auguste Rodin," L .cho de Paris, Eune 4:, 1$$D. "3n 1$1<, 1tendhal a"ait r;"u Auguste Rodin. 2ar une de ces "isions sur l'a"enir intellectuel des races, comme en a"ait si sou"ent ce rofond es rit, il d;crit clairement cet art qui n';tait as n; encore, et qu'il ne de"ait as a"oir la 'oie de "oir r;alis; ar des _u"res magnifiquesR3n effet, c'est #ien l'art de Rodin r;sum; en ces quelques lignes de 1tendhal, mais ce n'est as tout l'art de ce restigieu- statuaire. 9ar Rodin a e- rim; lus que des assions, il a e- rim; de la ens;e. Il a fait lus encore et, ce que 1tendhal lui&mTme n'e`t as cru ossi#le, il a synth;tis;, ar d'inou#lia#les conce tions, lus ;loquemment qu'aucun litt;rateur, lus fortement qu'aucun sychologue, l';tat d'Vme contem oraine et la maladie morale du siIcle. Aussi adorateur de la #eaut; de la forme ;ternelle que l'Antique, initiateur de mille attitudes cor orelles, r;g;n;rateur de la tradition lastique, il a u, sans rom re l';quili#re anatomique, en dotant l'art de #eaut;s nou"elles, il a u, non seulement forcer le mar#re Q se tordre sous la douleur et la "olu t;, il a u encore le forcer Q crier la su rTme souffrance de la n;gation moderne, Q leurer les d;"orantes larmes de l'inassou"i et les chutes de l'homme, d'id;al en id;al, 'usqu'Q sa couch;e dans le n;ant. 9e qu'il y a de oignant dans les figures de Rodin, c'est que nous nous retrou"ons en elles, c'est que nous y mirons nos d;senchantements@ c'est que, sui"ant une #elle e- ression de M. 1t; hane Mallarm;, 'elles sont nos douloureu- camarades.'" 4=. M. )'Auray, "9hroniquesA9laude Monet et Rodin," Le -ourrier du $oir, Eune 4=, 1$$D. 4<. +ernand 8ourgeat, "9hronique arisienne/ A la galerie (eorges 2etit," L /ntr acte, Eune 4=, 1$$D@ Re eated in "2aris "i"antAQ la galerie (eorges 2etit," Le $i9cle, Eune 44, 1$$D. 4$. W. 9. 8rownell, "Auguste Rodin," $cribner s #aga%ine 4D, EanuaryWEune 1D,1, D,WD1.
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