H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition


Je constate que dans vos listes, vous mêlez sans aucune pudeur les plâtres (foundry cast), aux plâtres (studio cast), quand ce ne sont pas les deux à la fois (studio or foundry cast)...

[From : Letter from Mr Jacques Vilain to Mr William Moore, 8 Oct. 2001]


We found this critique echoed by Sarah Milroy in the Toronto Globe of 22 Sept. 2001:

Numerous plasters are indeterminately labelled in this way, as "studio or foundry plasters," though the distinction is critical. One, arguably, is a work of art, and the other is not. Wall texts further confuse the issue, making statements like: "The inherent versatility of plaster. . . led Rodin to consider these versions of his sculpture to be the truest, most original, and direct manifestation of his ideas." This statement, however, could only be conceivably applied to those works which stayed in Rodin's studio, where he often remodelled them. But the lion's share of the plasters are, by the organizers' own assertion, foundry plasters, the byproducts of industry.

To answer this critique, the Maclaren Museum has replied to the Toronto Globe. In this letter, Mr William Moore wrote: 

In this (point) Milroy is simply incorrect. (…) Rodin made a clay model, a modeles bon cru (the negative of the model), and then the plasters. The plasters, all identical, went to his studio, some were sold, the odd one a gift, and one to the foundry to create another mould in order to pour the molten bronze. Clearly, the foundry plaster was extremely important to Rodin, for that was the plaster about which he cared the most! It is, in essence, the original and the starting point from which all bronzes were made. 

[From: Letter from Mr William Moore to Toronto Globe, 25 Sept. 2001, 
copy sent to me on 23 October 2001].

This reply not only explains the role of the foundry plasters as a necessary and crucial step in translating the original model to bronze, but also reverses the hierarchy the Musée Rodin, Sarah Milroy and finally Aida Edemariam  take for granted:

Rodin distinguished between two levels of plaster. The first from the mould was a finished, original, independent work of art, the form in which he liked to show his work. Visitors could order copies in marble or bronze. For this process, Rodin, and his assistants, used other plasters, known as foundry plasters, not meant for public consumption.

[Aida Edemariam, "I think but I do not quite know who I am", 2 Oct. 2001, The Guardian]

Instead of denying foundry plasters their status of art works, William Moore values them as the summit of Rodin´s creative abilities. 

In his enthusiasm Moore takes for granted all readers would be familiar with the fact that as a rule, foundry plasters sent to the foundry by Rodin, would be duplicated there in order to reduce the risk of damaging the precious first-generation plaster. A majority of the exhibited foundry plasters was not directly pulled from the bon creux moulds. The "Notes on Authentication" by Dr Schaff are more precise in this point:

Although it is probable that some works - "Torso Morhardt" is one example, the head of "Balzac" dedicated to "Saumer" is another - are plasters directly pulled from the modèles bon crus, the majority are duplicates produced during the casting process authorized by the artist and his estate. 

[From: Notes on Authentication of Rodin collection for the MacLaren Art Centre, 
by Dr David Schaff, 18 June 2001, sent to the author by the Maclaren Art Centre, Oct. 2001]

At the symposium, Dr Schaff confirmed that maybe one-third of the donated plasters are studio or presentation casts – which still makes up for an impressive collection in this category. It has not been possible, however, to determine the exact status for all of the pieces:

No foundry would risk their own “original” plaster of a master’s work and hence would make copies of the foundry plaster upon which to make the moulds for the bronze. Whether our plasters are those derived directly from Rodin’s studio casts [the original or first foundry plaster if you will that went to the foundry] or those which are multiples of the foundry plaster, it is impossible for us to tell. All we know for certain is that our plasters [foundry generation 1 or 2 ] conform point by point to the modèle bon creux , the original negative mould and therefore given general standard foundry practice are authentic Rodin works. But there are some outstanding exceptions in this collection -- because of such high definition in some cases and details such as personal inscriptions in others – that we have been lead to confirm that they are in fact studio plasters or presentation casts.

[From: Letter from Ms Mary Reid to the author, 4 Nov. 2001]




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