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Émile-Antoine Bourdelle


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(b Montauban, 30 Oct. 1861; d Le Vésinet, nr. Paris, 1 Oct. 1929).

French sculptor, the son of a cabinetmaker, from whom he received his first experience of carving. In 1876 he began to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, Toulouse, from where he won a scholarship to the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1884. However, he soon left the school and worked for a while with Jules Dalou before becoming Rodin's chief assistant from 1893 to 1908. Bourdelle's work has been somewhat overshadowed by his association with Rodin (whom he revered), but he was already an accomplished artist when he started working for him and developed an independent style. His energetic, rippling surfaces owe much to Rodin, but his flat rhythmic simplifications of form, recalling Romanesque art, are more personal. He was particularly interested in the relationship of sculpture to architecture, and his reliefs for the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (1912) are among his finest works. Bourdelle had many other prestigious public commissions and he also achieved great distinction as a teacher. By about 1910 he was generally regarded as the outstanding sculptor in France apart from Rodin himself. He was also a talented painter and draughtsman. His house and studio in Paris have been converted into the Musée Bourdelle, opened in 1961 to mark the centenary of his birth.

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