Above: Clodion, The See-Saw, 1775, terracotta. Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo), November 2012.
Frédéric Bazille, Self-portrait, 1865-66. The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), May 2015.
Heads, Female Diety; Bodhisattva; Buddha, stucco, Afghanistan/Pakistan, before 500 C.E. AIC, May 2015.
(From left) Gabriele Münter, Kirche von Reidhausen, 1908, oil on canvas board; G. Münter, Girl with Doll, 1908-09, oil on cardboard; August Macke, Geraniums Before Blue Mountain, 1911, oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, September 2015.
AIC, September 2015.
AIC, August 2015.
Bill Reid, Birth of the World, Museum of Anthropology, UBC, Vancouver, British Columbia, September 1993.
Mikazuki (male deity) Noh Mask, Japan, 16th century, cypress wood, colors, brass. AIC, August 2015.
Aristide Maillol, Enchained Action, bronze, 1905, AIC, August 2015.
AIC, May 2016.
Charles Collins, Still Life with Game, 1741. Private collection, May 2015.
European Decorative Arts, AIC, August 2015.
Roman Venus, Asia Minor, marble, c.165 CE., Toledo, November 2012.
Charles Ray, Young Man, 2012, Solid Stainless Steel, AIC, September 2015.
Michel Anguier, Amphitrite, marble, 1684. Toledo, November 2012.
James C. Timbrell, Carolan the Irish Bard, c. 1844, oil on canvas. Private collection.
The Dressing Table, William Glackens, c.1922, oil on canvas. Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, Indiana, September 2012.
From right: Kees van Dongen, Woman with Cat, 1908, and Quai, Venice, 1921; Gabriele Münter, Portrait Young Woman, 1909. Milwaukee Art Museum, September 2016.
Lorado Taft, Fountain of the Great Lakes, 1913. South Garden, AIC.
Henry Moore, Large Interior Form, bronze, 1982. North Garden, AIC.
Henry Moore’s 16-foot sculpture was made when the 84-year-old British artist was concerned with the construction of three-dimensional space, internal forms within solid volumes, and placing his work in a natural setting.
Moore had worked primarily in stone but as these formal concerns emerged, he shifted to modeling and bronze casting.
Large Interior Form explores mass and void as well as gravity and growth within a nature-inspired artist-created form.
Berthe Morisot, Woman in a Garden, 1882-83, AIC, September 2013.
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Adam, 1881. Bronze. AIC, May 2014.
Modern Wing, AIC, June 2014.
North Garden, AIC, November 2017.
WiFi hotspot, AIC, September 2015.
Edgar Degas, Spanish dance (c. 1883), Arabesque (c. 1885), Woman seated in an armchair, (c. 1901), cast in bronze later, AIC, May 2015.
Paris Street; A Rainy Day (“Rue de Paris, Temps de pluie”), 1877, Gustave Caillebotte, AIC, May 2015.
Alexander McKinlock Memorial Court, Triton Fountain, bronze, 1926, AIC, August 2015.
Swedish sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955) studied in Paris from 1897 to 1904, working in the studio of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Yet Milles departed from the prevailing naturalism that dominated sculpture in the Belle Époque era, and embraced ideas and forms that reflected the artist’s independent spirit, his knowledge and appreciation of classical and Gothic sculpture, and his Nordic roots. Speaking of the fountain, Milles observed: “The great classicists knew that it was impossible to reproduce the appearance of flesh in marble, and they set themselves to create forms of pure beauty that would merely suggest and symbolize the living creature, and then to invest those forms with a meaning that mankind would feel intuitively to be universal and significant. This is what I have tried to do.”
African headdresses. The Art Institute of Chicago. September 2015.
The headdresses at the right and at the left are Gelede headdresses. The headdress in the center is perhaps a Gelde or Efe headdress. The headdress at left, made of wood, is the oldest of the three headdresses, made in Nigeria or Benin by the Yoruba community, in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
Gelede headdresses often portray women as the headdresses in the center and at right do– one depicting a woman wearing a head tie and the other showing a woman with a plaited hairstyle. These were made in Nigeria by the Yoruba community in the first part of the 20th century.
The Gelede festival of the Yoruba community in western Africa is a public spectacle which uses colorful masks that combines art and ritual dance to educate, entertain and inspire worship. Gelede includes the celebration of “Mothers,” a grouping that includes female ancestors and deities as well as the elderly women of the community whose power and spiritual capacity in society is convoked. The Efe is a nighttime public performance held the day before the Gelede.
From left to right: Kramer Brothers Company (Dayton, Ohio), Settee, c. 1905/25; Cecilia Beaux (American, 1855-1942), Dorothea and Francesca, 1898, oil on canvas; Daniel Chester French (American, 1855- 1931), Truth, 1900, plaster. The Art Institute of Chicago. October 2014.
Fernand Harvey Lungren (American, 1857-1932), The Café, 1882/84, oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago, September 2014.
The artist, born in Sweden, moved with his family to Toledo, Ohio, as a child. Lungren wanted to be an artist but his father objected, wanting him to be a mining engineer. For a brief time, in 1874, Lungren attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to study his father’s preferred subject. But after two years, Lungren’s father still opposed to his being an artist, the younger Lungren rebelled and prevailed. In 1876 he was able to study under Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) at the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia. In winter 1877 the 20-year-old Lungren moved to New York City. With his first illustration published in 1879, he worked as an illustrator for Scribner’s Monthly (renamed Century in 1881) as well as for Nicholas (a children’s magazine) and as a contributor until 1903. He later worked for Harper’s Bazaar, McCLure’s and The Outlook. Lungren’s illustrations included portraits, and social and street scenes.
In 1882 Lungren traveled to Paris via Antwerp. In a brief stay in Paris he studied informally at the Académie Julian, and viewed French Impressionist artworks. Lungren returned to New York City in 1883 and, soon afterwards, established a studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1892 he visited Santa Fe, New Mexico for the first time and, in the following years painted artworks inspired by his contact with American Indian culture and the desert landscape. In 1899 he showed these American desert works at the American Art Galleries in New York and afterwards at the Royal Academy in London and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
When Lungren was in London he made pictures of street life and met several artists, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). In late 1900 Lungren traveled to Egypt and returned to New York via London in the next year. Lungren had married Henrietta Whipple in 1898 and they moved to California in 1903, settling in Santa Barbara in 1906. Lungren lived and work in California—including several notable trips to Death Valley—until his death in 1932. Most of Lungren’s artwork, including hundreds of his paintings, were bestowed to what is today the University of California, Santa Barbara.
SOURCE: J.A. Berger, Fernand Lungren: A Biography, Santa Barbara, 1936.
N.B. At this blog post’s publishing in July 2016, Aristide Maillol’s Enchained Action — a torso cast in bronze and created in 1905 in France — enjoyed a lengthy though indeterminate time on the Women’s Board Grand Staircase at the Chicago art museum. In 2017 the torso was removed by museum curators and placed in an undisclosed location out of public view. At this writing, it has been replaced by Richard Hunt’s Hero Construction (1958).
Text and photographs by John P. Walsh.
In September 2016 the Musée Maillol re-opens in Paris following its unfortunate closure due to poor finances earlier in the year. Under the new management team of M. Olivier Lorquin, president of the Maillol Museum, and M. Bruno Monnier, chairman of Culturespaces, the museum’s new schedule calls for two major exhibitions each year which will look to honor the modernist legacy of the artist, Aristide Maillol (French, 1861-1944) and the museum’s founder, Maillol’s muse, Dina Vierny (1919-2009).
This photographic essay called “Encountering Maillol” is constituted by 34 photographs taken by the author in The Art Institute of Chicago from 2013 to 2016 of the artistically splendid and historically notable sculpture Enchained Action by Maillol and random museum patrons’ reactions when viewing it. The impressive bronze female nude from 1905 stands almost four feet tall atop a plain pedestal which greets every visitor who ascends the Grand Staircase from the Michigan Avenue entrance. Enchained Action is one of Maillol’s earliest modernist sculptures and is doubtless filled by a dynamism not encountered anywhere else in his oeuvre.1
Modelled in France in 1905 by a 44-year-old Maillol who by 1900 had abandoned Impressionist painting for sculpture (first in wood, then in bronze) Enchained Action is one of the artist’s most impressive early sculptures. From the start of his sculptural work around 1898 until his death in 1944, the female body, chaste but sensual, is Maillol’s central theme. What can be seen in Enchained Action expresses the intensity in his early sculptural work which is not found later on—particularly the artist’s natural dialogue among his experimental works in terracotta, lead, and bronze each of which is marked by an attitude of robust energy expressed in classical restraint and modernist simplicity. Enchained Action exhibits Maillol’s early facility for perfection of form within a forceful tactile expression which deeply impressed his first admirers such as Maurice Denis (1870-1943), Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917) and André Gide (1869-1951) and cannot fail to impress the museum goer today.2 By force of this new work in the first decade of the twentieth century, Maillol started on the path of becoming an alternative to and, dissonant heir of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).3
Maillol’s early sculptural work is important for what it is—and is not. Modeled around three years after he completed his first version of La Méditerranée in 1902 in terracotta and for which his wife posed—a major modernist achievement of a seated woman in an attitude of concentration—and whose radically revised second version was exhibited at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, Enchained Action forms part of Maillol’s revolution for sculpture starting around 1900. Maillol made a radical break with neoclassicism and stifling academicism with its strange blend of realism and mythological forms—and with a rising generation of young sculptors such as Joseph Bernard (1866-1931), Charles Despiau (1874-1946) and Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929)—blazed a new path for sculpture. Except for Maillol, all these young sculptors worked in menial jobs for Rodin. Because of Maillol’s chosen artistic distance from Rodin’s work, Maillol did not need to react to it and so rapidly achieved his own new style as soon as 1905, the year of Enchained Action.
Maillol’s concept and primary approach to the beauty of the human body was to simplify and subdue forms. This pursuit began in early 1900 and advanced until the artist’s first time outside France on his trip to Greece in 1908 with Count Kessler (1868-1937). An important early sculpture—Recumbent Nude, 1900—was cast with the help of his lifelong friend Henri Matisse (1869-1954). This friendship had ramifications for the Art Institute’s Enchained Action in that it was purchased from Henri Matisse’s son, art dealer Pierre Matisse in 1955 right after his father’s death. While it would prove quaint for The Art Institute of Chicago to install Maillol’s limbless torso of Enchained Action on The Grand Staircase to pay homage or evoke the Louvre’s Winged Victory or Venus de Milo, it is historically significant so to embody Maillol’s artistic outlook in 1905 for his new sculpture, of which Enchained Action is an example. In the years between 1900 and 1908, Maillol searched beyond realism and naturalism to create sculpture with an abstract anatomical structure that jettisoned the sign language of physical gestures which are emotional and where limbs could be problematic for Maillol’s end design. The human torso of Enchained Action foregoes limbs and head to alone embody and convey the artist’s import for it.4
On The Art Institute of Chicago’s Grand Staircase Enchained Action displays Maillol’s sensitive surface modeling capturing human flesh’s animation and sensual power more than its suppleness as found in Italian masters such as Bernini –such difference serves Maillol’s purpose for his subject matter. The torso is differently pliant—toned, muscular, and strident. It displays the humana ex machina whose stance and posture express the modern hero’s defiance and whose nakedness retains the beauty uniquely imbued in the female human body. Enchained Action is a different work altogether than every work Maillol modeled and cast up to 1905. His art progresses in experimentation by its direct interface with politics. Enchained Action is not only an artwork but a political artwork where Maillol empowers both spheres. For today’s viewer who reacts to nudity in art with the shame of eroticism, they may see (or avoid seeing) its sprightly breasts, taut stomach, and large buttocks of Enchained Action only in that mode. The museum limits such visitors to this narrow viewpoint because they do not explain to them Maillol’s artful technique, conceptual artistic revolution by 1905, or unique political and socioeconomic purpose for this imposing artwork in plain view.
With an aesthetic interest established for Enchained Action—for it signals a break with the artistic past and the birth of modern sculpture in its abstraction – a question is posed: what are the political and socioeconomic purposes for this work? Its original and full title reveals a radical social implication: Torso of the Monument to Blanqui ([En] Chained Action). Abbreviated titles—and such appear at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Torso of Chained Action) and in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris (L’Action enchaînée)—neatly avoids or even voids the sculpture’s original radical social message. Maillol’s Enchained Action is dedicated it to the French socialist revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881).
In 1905 Maillol’s Enchained Action was a public monument honoring the centenary of Blanqui’s birth and consolidation of the French socialist movement that same year into the Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO), a single leftist political party that was replaced by the current Socialist Party (PS) in 1969. Given this background a visitor may simply stare at or bypass the torso but perhaps for reasons of politics rather than eroticism. The title omission—first promoted by André Malraux in 1964 for the Tuileries’ copy—does disservice to Maillol’s accomplishment and its full title should be restored. The Metropolitan has an incomplete title but on thee label includes information on Blanqui and clearly states their version was cast in 1929. The Art Institute of Chicago’s casting date for the torso is obscure. For a better appreciation of the artwork, familiarity with its social and political historical context is important to locate the intended nature of the energy expressed in it. Torso of the Monument to Blanqui ([En] Chained Action) is a figure study of a strident naked female torso and an expression of radical politics in France at the turn of the last century.
By 1905 Maillol’s new sculptural work attracted important collectors. Rodin introduced Maillol that year to Count Kessler at the Paris gallery of Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) and to other progressive writers, art critics, and painters. Maillol’s work was a new art form for a new century. It was in 1905 that Paris friends, among them Anatole France (1844-1924), Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926), Jean Jaurès (1859-1914) and Octave Mirbeau, approached Maillol to persuade the avant-garde artist to accept a commission for the politically sectarian Blanqui monument. It would be a tribute très moderne to a fierce socialist revolutionary but and the entire Blanqui family tradition which had voted to guillotine Louis XVI in the French Revolution and plotted against each ruling regime in France afterwards. Immense confidence was placed in Maillol by these bold turn-of-the-century intelligentsia and by the artist himself who came from a generation that came to believe they were the torchbearers of a new art.
In France public opinion was frequently divided on art matters. When Rodin agreed to Maillol’s commission—he wanted Camille Claudel to do it, but she had become seriously psychotic by 1905—the older sculptor admired and purchased Maillol’s new sculpture—in addition to experiencing his own deep familiarity with the vagaries of creating public monuments. Committee members, by and large left-wing sympathizers, made a favorable impression on Maillol who agreed to do the work. On July 10, 1905, Maillol promised Georges Clemenceau, “I’ll make you a nice big woman’s ass and I’ll call it Liberty in Chains.”5 After that, Maillol’s new sculpture—a symbolic monument to a political revolutionary erected in October 1908 under protest of town leaders on the main square of Blanqui’s native village of Puget-Théniers in the south of France—became the subject of unending intense scrutiny. How to respond to a large and powerful standing figure, tense and in motion where human struggling is borne to the edge of absorbing mute serenity by restraint of chains symbolizing Blanqui’s thirty years in jails by successive French governments?6 In the first ten days of working on the new commission, Maillol made three small sketches and two maquettes of an armless torso followed by other preliminary work. He finished a final clay version in 1905 whose contemplative intimacy reflected socialist Jean Jaurès’sagenda for political life: “We are inclined to neglect the search for the real meaning of life, to ignore the real goals—serenity of the spirit and sublimity of the heart … To reach them—that is the revolution.”7 Sixty-five-year-old Rodin whose critical judgment of the new sculpture which undertook to streamline art forms to the point of austerity against Rodin’s “monstrous subjects, filled with pathos” remarked tersely on Enchained Action.8 Although Maillol saw this public monument as more reliant than ever on Rodin’s concepts, M. Rodin after seeing it was reported to ambiguously mutter: “It needs looking at again.”9
It may be better to judge Enchained Action inside its historical moment. Former Metropolitan curator Preston Remington (1897-1958) praised his museum’s copy of the torso calling it “splendid” and “impeccable” in its observation of the human form. Yet he concludes that it is “essentially typical” of the sculptor for it “transcends the realm of visual reality.”10Enchained Action displays none of the delicacy, awkwardness, luminosity, or calm of the artist’s earlier sculptures and predates major developments in Maillol’s oeuvre after 1909 which differs extensively from that of Enchained Action11 and for which is based much of the artist’s legacy, even by 1929 when Remington is writing. Is it fair to identify Enchained Action as “essentially typical” even as it sublimates form? Viewed in 1905—a watershed year for modern art, including an exhibition of Henri-Matisse’s first Fauvist canvases at the Salon des Indépendents and at the Salon d’Automne—Enchained Action became that year Maillol’s largest sculptural statement to date. The commission, while relying on Rodin’s concepts in its depiction of strenuous physical activity—a quality Preston Remington recognized as “exceptional” in the torso and yet as a critical judgment ambiguous as to whether it refers to Maillol’s reliance on Rodin—afforded Maillol further confidence to execute his monumental art after 1905 for which today he is famous. While for Mr. Remington the representative quality of Enchained Action was what he sought for a museum collection, its exceptional qualities in values that are literally not “essentially typical” for the sculptor.
The complete final figure of Monument to Blanqui([En] Chained Action)—and not only the torso that is displayed on the Grand Staircase of The Art Institute of Chicago—depicts a mighty and heroic woman struggling to free herself from chains binding her hands from behind. Both of these “complete” versions are in Paris and found in the Jardin des Tuileries and in the Musée Cognacq-Jay. Maillol’s later studies for Enchained Action commenced without its head and legs that expressed a heightened anatomical intensity in place of Rodin-like strife.12 Chicago and New York each have a bronze replica of the torso. The Tate Britain has one in lead. Following the Great War, Maillol’s Monument to Blanqui ([En] Chained Action) standing for 14 years in Puget-Théniers’ town square was taken down in 1922 so to erect a monument aux morts. During World War II fearing that the extant original sculpture would be melted down for Nazi bullets, Henri Matisse purchased it from Puget-Théniers and gave it to the city of Nice. The original bronze was saved and now stands in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.13
Dynamism not anywhere else in his oeuvre – “Maillol/Derré,” Sidney Geist, Art Journal, v.36, n.1 (Autumn 1976), p.14.
Sketches, maquettes, final version – Lorquin, p. 57-58.; Jaurès quoted in Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920, James T. Kloppenberg, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1986, p. 297.
“A Newly Acquired Sculpture by Maillol,” Preston Remington, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 24, No. 11, Part 1 (Nov., 1929), pp. 280-283.
Such works as Night (1909), Flora and Summer (1911), Ile de France (1910–25), Venus (1918–28), Nymphs of the Meadow (1930–37), Memorial to Debussy (marble, 1930–33; Saint-Germain-en-Laye) and Harmony (1944) which are composed, harmonious, and monumental nude female figures often labeled “silent” by critics.
Enchained Action was first modeled with arms. The story of how the first limbless final version came about involving Henri Matisse – see Lorquin, p.58.