H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition


La Défense: The Verdun Enlargement

A third example, already described by Albert Elsen and referred to by Gary Arseneau is the posthumous enlargement of La Defénse for the allied comittee based in Holland, commissioned to Henri Lebossé by Musée Rodin Director Léonce Bénédite after Rodin´s death:

It was Bénédite´s decision not only to continue the enlargement after Rodin´s death, but to make an ever bigger one, because the Dutch government wanted this work erected at Verdun as a grateful tribute to French heroism. The project was carried out by Lebossé, who started it in 1918 and completed work in 1920. He increased the original scale of the sculpture four times.

[Elsen, p. 256]

In this 1981 essay on Lebossé, Elsen severely criticizes Bénédite´s attitude:

Why did Lebossé accept Bénédite´s commision to make the huge posthumous version of The Defense? Did pride vanquish prudence? Certainly he had not forgotten  the crucial decisions Rodin had to make for him or approve. Lebossé´s decision is more understandable, if not condonable, when one reads of his problems just after the war in putting his business back on its feet, even with the help of his son who had been demobilized. Finally, Bénédite had the legal, if not ethical authorioty as director of the Musée Rodin, and Lebossé had money coming to him after Rodin´s death for other unfinished projects.

[Elsen, p. 256]

In her monumental Catalogue Raisonné, Tôme 1, published by the Wildenstein Institute in 1989, Cécile Goldscheider smoothes the issue out. In her entry on the Verdun monumental enlargement, she points to the letters on this subject already exchanged by January 1917. According to her text, it had been Rodin himself who had proposed to produce a monumental version in the "required size":

Pendant la guerre, un comité s´était formé aux Pays-Bas dans le but de réunir des fonds pour offrir à la Ville de Verdun un monument glorifiant sa résistance aux attaques des troupes allemendes. Le Président du Comité informa Rodin des ses intentions. A sa lettre du 26 décembre 1916, Léonce Bénédite répondit le 17 janvier 1917. Il assistait Rodin affaibli par le maladie, mais celui-ci, ému par cet élan de coeur vers une villie heroique, exprima son regret de ne pouvoir entreprendre une oeuvre monumentale nouvelle. Il estimait qu´un groupe pris dans son atelier, La Défense, pouvait répondre à leur désir en l´executant dans les dimensions requises. Le travail d´Henri Le Bossé donnant toute satisfaction en respectant la création de Rodin.

[Goldscheider, p. 132]





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