Stanford Report, October 9, 2002
Risk-taking scholar's Rodin studies celebrated at symposium
BY JOHN SANFORD
The French sculptor Auguste Rodin worked an expressive sensuality into the cold material of his art.
Walk down Lomita Drive to the Rodin Sculpture Garden, on the south side of the Cantor Center, and it looks as though Medusa had caught a nudist camp by surprise during calisthenics and left her victims cast in metal instead of stone. By the same token, the figures seem as though they could suddenly shift out of their oblique postures and step off their pedestals.
Bronze muscle and sinew pulsate with unseen nerves that communicate never-ending messages of pain, lust, sorrow and loss. Rodin eschewed the staid academic style of the late 19th century, and, some scholars would argue, single-handedly ushered in the era of modern sculpture.
A two-day symposium celebrating the publication of Rodin's Art: The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, a catalog by Albert Elsen, was held Friday and Saturday in Annenberg Auditorium. "New Studies on Rodin" featured lectures by more than a dozen scholars from universities, galleries and museums across the nation.
Elsen, the late Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, left a draft of the catalog at the time of his death in 1995. Rosalyn Frankel Jamison, a former graduate student of his, prepared the final manuscript and wrote some missing entries; Bernard Barryte, chief curator of the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, edited the final draft for publication with the help of two structural editors.
In the keynote address Friday, Ruth Butler, the sculptor's eminent biographer and professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts, recalled troubles with Cecile Goldscheider, then-director of the Musée Rodin in Paris, and how Elsen outmaneuvered her.
Goldscheider was an academic obstructionist who kept the museum's valuable archival materials -- newspaper clippings, letters and photographs -- out of the hands of other scholars.
"I remember I was in the office of the director's secretary, and I saw spread out on her desk all these old, yellowing clippings from newspapers, and I gasped, thinking how much that was going to help my work if I could just read them," said Butler, who was a Fulbright student in Paris at the time.
To get permission, she made an appointment with Goldscheider, who summarily recommended a trip to the Paris main library while failing even to acknowledge the existence of the museum's clippings.
"She was a very powerful person in the French museum world, and she saw to it that no French student would even breathe a moment of interest in Rodin," said Butler. "Rodin belonged to Cecile Goldscheider."
So it was with some astonishment that, several years later, Butler read in the preface to Rodin's Gates of Hell (1960), by Elsen, that the attic of the Musée Rodin was full of boxes containing newspaper clippings. Elsen later told Butler (the two became lifelong friends) that he once hid in the museum until it closed, then climbed into the attic. Armed with a flashlight, he looked through all the material stored up there.
"He was always much more daring than I was," Butler said.
Mme Goldscheider ousted
Elsen, it seems, did not suffer fools gladly, and in 1967 -- the 50th anniversary of Rodin's death -- he published a scathing editorial in The Burlington Magazine, a scholarly journal of art history, denouncing Goldscheider's failure to give students access to the archives. In 1973, the French government replaced Goldscheider as head of the museum. "Al certainly can take some credit for this," Butler said.
But she also noted the irony of the museum director's tyranny: Had Goldscheider been more forthcoming, Elsen might have had more competition "Al's position as the most important and respected Rodin scholar of the 20th century might have been different.
"The French, with the exception of the grande dame Cecile, were basically barred from working on Rodin. And, as far as creative scholarship, Cecile Goldscheider is no match for Al Elsen."
It was also in 1967 that Elsen went to see a small exhibition of Rodin's work at the Los Angeles County Museum. The pieces in the show belonged to the collection of a wealthy financier named B. Gerald Cantor.
Cantor, however, had unwittingly -- and, for that matter, blamelessly -- gotten off on the wrong foot with Elsen: Cantor had purchased the pieces from the Musée Rodin, which was still under the control of Goldscheider. And Goldscheider, Butler explained, was on Elsen's enemies list.
For that reason, Elsen panned the exhibit -- both in the Los Angeles Times and in a television interview, according to Butler. When Cantor's curator, Ellen Landis (now art curator at the Albuquerque Museum), ran into Elsen a few months later, she arranged to have the two men meet. It was the beginning of a friendship that spanned close to three decades and spawned numerous collaborative efforts. Even before Cantor began donating objects from his collection to Stanford, he made it possible for many of Elsen's students to travel to Paris to do research.
Stanford's flagship art collection of more than 200 works by Rodin represents the largest such collection outside of Paris, and it owes everything to Cantor and Elsen.
Elsen is largely credited with restoring Rodin's reputation. When he began his dissertation on The Gates of Hell in the late 1940s, Rodin was, in the words of Butler, "totally un-chic." The abstract movements between the world wars, as well as the truth-to-material movement, had largely eclipsed interest in the sculptor.
In the preface to The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin (1985), Elsen writes, "You don't outgrow The Gates, you grow into them."
It's a statement that resonates not only with the way Rodin approached his work -- he never considered anything finished, even after it had been cast in bronze, Butler said -- but also, somewhat eerily, with the tangle of bodies and limbs that protrude in high and low relief from the tortured, passionate facade of the massive portal, for which Rodin took his inspiration from Dante's Inferno. The organic quality of Rodin's sculptures -- the sense that he may have had designs on altering them even after they were cast -- reflect on the pieces themselves.
Gates was Rodin's first major commission, and it gave birth to many of his major works -- The Thinker, The Kiss, The Shades, Adam and Eve, to name a few -- that he designed for it. (Rodin would enlarge these figures or tinker with them, or both, to exhibit and sell as independent works.)
Whether Rodin actually considered the opus done by the time of his death is a matter of some controversy. In his 1985 book, Elsen sums up his assertion in the title of the eighth chapter: "The Gates of Hell, 1900-1917: Complete But Not 'Finished.'"
The work was reconstituted by Léonce Bénédite, the first director of the Musée Rodin, after Rodin's death in 1917. That plaster, which sits in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, is the model on which Stanford's Gates is based.
Press release (AUGUST 2002)
Stanford, CA, August 15, 2002—The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University focuses on 19th-century French sculptor Auguste Rodin this fall with a major publication, a free symposium, and the return of The Thinker to the Rodin collection at Stanford. To celebrate the publication of the late Professor Albert Elsen's monumental catalogue of the Center's Rodin collection, the Center is sponsoring a two-day symposium, New Studies on Rodin, October 4-5, 2002. The keynote address by Rodin's most notable biographer, Ruth Butler, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts, presents the current state of Rodin studies and Elsen's contribution to them. Twelve other scholars present 20-minute talks on a variety of subjects..
Elsen's catalogue of the Center's Rodin collection was left as a draft at his untimely death in 1995. It includes brief discussions of the formation of the collection and Rodin's studio practice. However, the bulk of the liberally illustrated 662-page volume, completed by Rosalyn Frankel Jamison after Elsen's death, is devoted to detailed entries on each work. Each essay distills a lifetime of concentrated study and demonstrates Elsen's exceptional ability to guide viewers' eyes around a work of art in a way that encourages creative looking.
Finally, the Center's Rodin season will be crowned by the return of The Thinker from its travels to Australia and Singapore as part of the traveling exhibition Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession: Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. The Cantor Arts Center offers the largest collection of outdoor Rodin culpture outside of the Rodin Museum in Paris, plus The Burghers of Calais nearby on campus. Specially installed evening lighting spotlights the bronzes and makes the Rodin Sculpture Garden at the Cantor Arts Center available for viewing at all times. In addition, the Center presents works by Rodin in its south rotunda and an adjoining gallery during regular museum hours.
SYMPOSIUM: New Studies on
Friday and Saturday, October 4-5
Annenberg Auditorium, Cummings Art Building, Stanford University
Free; open to the public; no registration
We gratefully acknowledge the symposium's sponsors: the Robert Mondavi
Family Fund, the Mike and Bobbi Wilsey Education Fund, and the Iris &
B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 4 - 7:30 pm
4:00 - 4:15, Welcome, Thomas K. Seligman, Director, Cantor Arts
4:20 - 5:05, Rodin and Poets:
4:20 - 4:40, Rodin, Victor Hugo, and "The
Gates of Hell," Rosalyn Frankel Jamison, independent scholar
4:45 - 5:05, The Poetics of Sculpture: Rodin in the
Circle of Mallarmé, Claudine Mitchell, University of Leeds
Questions and Break
5:30 - 6:30, Keynote Address:
Albert Elsen, "The Gates of Hell," and
20th-century Rodin Scholarship, Ruth Butler, Professor of Art
History Emerita, University of Massachusetts, Boston (Sponsored by the
Mike and Bobbi Wilsey Fund for Education)
Wine and Cheese Reception in the Rodin Sculpture Garden, Cantor
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5, 9 am - 4:30 pm
9:00 - 9:15, Opening Remarks, Bernard Barryte, Chief Curator,
Cantor Arts Center
9:15 - 10:00, Rodin and the Past:
9:15 - 9:35, Contextualized Vision: Rodin and the
Influence of the Past, James Hargrove, University of Pennsylvania
9:40 - 10:00, Les Cathedrales de France: Rodin,
Ruskin, and the Gothic, Ronald Bernier, Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes
10:00 - 10:30, Break
10:30 - 11:40, Rodin and Other Artists:
10:30 - 10:50, Rodin and Puvis de Chavannes,
Aimée Brown Price, independent scholar
10:55 - 11:15, The Space/Form Continuum: Rodin,
Rosso, and Carriere, Jane Becker, independent scholar
11:20 - 11:40, Revising Afternoon of a Faun: Rodin,
Nijinski, and the Dancing Body, Juliet Bellow, University of
11:40 - 12:00, Discussion
12:00 - 1:30, Lunch
1:30 - 4:10, Rodin's Reception: Europe and the USA
1:30 - 1:50, Art, Politics, and Rodin¹s Prague
1902, Nicholas Sawicki, University of Pennsylvania
1:55 - 2:15, Rodin at the Bauhaus, Paul Paret,
University of Connecticut
2:15 - 2:30, Discussion
2:30 - 3:00, Break
3:00 - 3:20, Rodin' s American Connection: Truman
Howe Bartlett (18351923) and Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925),
Thomas Somma, Mary Washington College Galleries
3:25 - 3:45. Rodin and the Coming of Age of
American Art Criticism, Susan Ilene Fort, Los Angeles County Museum
3:50 - 4:10, Private Passions, Public Pursuance:
Rodin and His American Collectors , Anna Tahinci, Fogg Art Museum,
Discussion and Conclusion
Symposium Outline (July 2002)
Announced Themes, speakers, and talks:
"Al Elsen’s Legacy and Rodin Studies Today"
Ruth Butler, Professor emerita, University of Massachusetts
Rodin and the Poets
"Rodin, Victor Hugo, and The Gates of Hell"
Roz Jamison, independent scholar & co-author of Rodin’s Art
"The Poetics of Sculpture: Rodin in the Circle of Mallarmé"
Claudine Mitchell, University of Leeds
Rodin and the Past
"The Contextualized Image: Rodin and the Influence of the Past"
James Hargrove, University of Pennsylvania
"Les Cathédrales de France: Rodin, Ruskin, and the Gothic"
Ronald Bernier, Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes University
Rodin and Contemporary Artists
"Rodin and Puvis de Chauvennes"
Aimee Price, independent scholar
"The Unity of Space and Form in the Hands of Rodin, Rosso, and Carriere"
Jane Becker, independent scholar
"Rewriting Faune: Rodin, Nijinski, and the Dancing Body"
Juliet Bellow, University of Pennsylvania
Rodin’s Reception in Europe and America
"Spectacular Exhibitionism: Prague 1902"
Nickolas Sawicki, University of Pennsylvania
"Rodin at the Bauhaus"
Paul Paret, University of Connecticut
"Rodin’s American Connection: Truman Howe Bartlett (1835-1923)
and Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925)"
Thomas Somma, Mary Washington College Galleries, Fredericksburg, VA
"Rodin and the New Sculptural Language"
Ilene Susan Fort, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Source: Letter of Bernard Barryte to Hans de Roos,
Call for papers (Sept. 2001)
From: Bernard Barryte
Subject: CFP: Symposium on Rodin (Stanford, CA/US, October 4-5, 2002)
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 12:04:27 -0700
CALL FOR PAPERS
"New Studies on Auguste Rodin"
Symposium at Stanford University, October 4-5, 2002
The holdings of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at
Stanford University include some 200 works by Auguste Rodin in various
media. The collection was formed under the guidance of the late Professor
Albert Elsen expressly to encourage study of the sculptor. Professor
monumental catalogue of the Center's collection is forthcoming in spring,
2002 from Oxford University Press and its appearance will be celebrated by
conference on October 4-5, 2002.
The symposium is intended to provide a forum for new scholarship on the
sculptor. Themes that might be addressed include, but are not limited to:
the history of Rodin scholarship; Rodin's critical reception; Rodin as
entrepreneur; issues of originality; Rodin and literature; Rodin and the
movements of his day; influences on Rodin; and Rodin's influence.
Talks will be limited to 20 minutes and must be delivered in English.
wishing to participate should submit an abstract of no more than 2 typed,
double-spaced pages and a CV by December 10, 2001. Although funding is not
yet in place, every effort will be made to publish the acts of this
symposium. Participants should therefore be committed and prepared to
the manuscript of their talk plus supporting illustrations within 60 days
the conference. For consideration, please mail a 2 pp. abstract + CV to
Bernard Barryte / Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts /
University / 328 Lomita Drive / Stanford, CA 94305-5060 / USA.
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts
328 Lomita Dr.
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
tel: 650/ 725-0466 fax: 650-725-1652