Monday, August 30, 2010

More on Jeanne Bardey

I've been doing a little more digging on Jeanne Bardey (still without sight of the book on her by Hubert Thiolier). According to the Union List of Artist Names at the J. Paul Getty website, Jeanne Bardey's dates were 1876-1944, so it seems she was 7 years younger than I thought, and died 4 years earlier: I can't remember where I got my previous dates, but these seem more reliable. [Though apparently not: see the update at the foot of this post]. I have found several works by her illustrated in the Gazette des Beaux Arts, and a short essay on her in the Gazette's series Peintres-Graveurs Contemporains. The essay, published in 1913 and accompanied by the etched portrait reproduced in my last post, is by R. M. (presumably the art critic Roger Marx). Sorry for the poor quality of the images in this post, which are simply quick photos of reproductions in the Gazette, but it seems worthwhile posting what I can on this underservedly obscure artist, about whom so little information is readily available.

Jeanne Bardey, Étude
Fresco, 1911

The first mention I find of Jeanne Bardey is in a round-up article on Les Salons de 1911. Her fresco of a seated female nude is reproduced (taking up most of a page), and discussed by the author René Jean. It was exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants. Jean remarks on Jeanne Bardey's "very personal" fresco technique, in which the drawing is incised into a brick red ground. He asks, "Quelle est le part de M. Rodin, le maître de Mlle Bardey, dans ces nouvelles recherches? Peu importe: pour l'heure, il suffit de se laisser aller au charm bizarre que donne cette figure inclinée, les bras tendus au dossier du fauteuil tournant qui la reçut. Cette fille d'Ève offre et refuse à la fois le secret de ses lèvres ouvertes et de son regard fuyant: l'artiste qui la conçut avait la perception douloureuse d'une humanité à la poursuite vaine des oublis factices." What is the part of M. Rodin, the teacher of Miss Bardey, is these new researches? No matter: for now, it is enough to open oneself to the strange charm of this inclined figure, her arms outstretched to the back of the revolving chair on which she sits. This daughter of Eve both offers and refuses the secret of her opened lips and her elusive gaze: the artist who conceived her had a painful perception of a humanity in vain pursuit of false oblivion.

Jeanne Bardey, Ophèlie
Marble sculpture, 1913

After René Jean's rather over-excited response to the fresco nude, Roger Marx (if it is he) is more measured in his assessment of the art of Jeanne Bardey. He opens by acknowledging that, "It is a common experience to witness the rise to fame of a favoured female pupil of some independant master." He instances Judith Leyster and Frans Hals, Margeurite Gérard and Frago, Constance Mayer and Prud'hon, Eva Gonzalès and Manet, Mary Cassatt and Degas, "et, auprès de M. Rodin, Mlle Camille Claudel et Mme Jeanne Bardey." I note that throughout this article the artist is Mme Bardey, rather than Mlle as before. There's a reference on the internet to a visiting card of Rodin's inscribed, "Madame Bardey one of my friends has a talent that you will see. Your friend Aug. Rodin", presumably sent to introduce her to some art world luminary, but no date is given. It seems from what Roger Marx writes that Bardey was her married name, and that her husband was the Lyonnais artist Louis Bardey. Louis Bardey, described by Roger Marx as a "decorator", who had studied under Guichard, was born in 1851. I can't find a death date for him, but he is described as still active in 1913. He is described as Jeanne Bardey's first teacher.

Jeanne Bardey, Figure en marbre
Marble sculpture, 1913

Although Jeanne had shown a marked artistic talent since her schooldays, it was only in 1905, when she was nearing 30, that she commenced her artistic career. In 1907 she exhibited a still life at the Salon de Lyon, which was bought by the town for its museum; so far as I can tell this was her first publicly exhibited work. Buoyed-up by this success, Jeanne Bardey went to Paris to continue her studies, both in the academies and in hospitals and asylums where "she set herself to surprise on the faces of the insane and degenerate the flaws of imbalance and the stigmata of bewilderment and madness." Besides these studies of the mentally ill, Bardey filled sketchbooks with quick drawings of the human body in motion, and of nudes. It was these drawings that persuaded Rodin to take her into his atelier. "Drawing will give you the key to all the arts," he told her. At this period she branched out into etching, returned to painting,  made frescos. In 1911, under Rodin's guidance, she took up sculpture, "kneading clay, shaping marble from Asia or Sienna, or making bas-reliefs on Carrera marble in the Egyptian style."

Jeanne Bardey, Rieuse
Painting, 1913

Roger Marx concludes by saying that. "Mme Bardey leaves the impression of an artist who maintains, in the successful pursuit of powerful achievements, a nature inherently inventive, a delicate taste, refined by culture and a determined, lucid, and sensitive will." Despite this early acclaim, Jeanne Bardey did not become a famous artist. After Rodin's death in 1917 she lost her main promoter. So far as I can tell she retreated from Paris to Lyon, though whether she ever returned to Louis Bardey is unclear. She did continue to exhibit until the early 1930s. Having commenced at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants in 1908-1910, and the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1911-1912, from 1913-1933 she moved her allegiance to the Salon d'Automne, the Salon des Tuileries, and the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, of which she was elected a member in 1930.

UPDATE 13 June 2011: André Vessot kindly informs me that Jeanne Bardey was born in Lyon on August 10, 1872 and died in Lyon on October 8, 1954.


Jane Librizzi said...

What a curious and playful pose that is in "Etude" (fresco). I wonder what inspired it. I like Bardey's "Ophelie" for its concentration on the face, reminding us that Ophelia was a person, not merely a symbol.

Neil said...

Jane - I rather suspect that the pose in Étude may be a self-portrait in a mirror. But the loose-limbed fluency of the composition is rather like the drawings and watercolours Rodin was making around this time. Many of these were exhibited at the Galerie Devambez in 1908, in the first show at the gallery, which was run by Georges Weil. The Rodin show caused shock and outrage because of the erotic nature of many of the drawings. The sculptor F. W. Ruckstull was horrified, writing disapprovingly: "In his exhibition of drawings, held October 19, 1908, in the Galerie Devambez, in Paris, he showed the most libidinous set of drawings ever exposed to an invited public, in which there were at least two that were frankly pornographic and for which show he was, by both French and foreign people, called 'beast,' 'monster,' 'vulgar charlatan', 'sadist,' etc." Others were charmed and delighted by the freshness of Rodin’s work. The foreword to the catalogue praised the "bold, truthful images", while the critic of Le Journal wrote that, "One cannot find in these hundred and fifty sketches and drawings of Rodin a single note seen before."

Neil said...

I should have said that, self-portrait or not, I think the unusual posture shows the model in Étude twirling herself round in a revolving chair. I'm not quite sure when the revolving chair was invented, but suspect it was probably quite new - no, Wikipedia tells me that Thomas Jefferson invented it in 1776.