Friday, August 27, 2010

Rodin's last mistress? Jeanne Bardey

A comment from Emeline on my last post, about the profound unacknowledged contribution of his pupil, assistant, and mistress Camille Claudel to Rodin's work, reminded me that I have a number of etchings and drypoints by another of Rodin's pupils and mistresses, Jeanne Bardey. Like most of the women in Rodin's life - his longterm partner Rose Beuret, Camille Claudel, Gwen John - Jeanne Bardey got a raw deal from her relationship with him. She was born in Lyon 1869. She was therefore 5 years younger than Camille Claudel, and seven years older than Gwen John [N.B. This information appears to be wrong; her correct dates are 1872-1954; see the next post]. Rodin made a will in her favour, which was anulled when, after his fourth stroke, and when it has been argued he was incapable of informed assent, he was persuaded to sign a deed of gift willing all his estate to the French State. There's a whole book about this controversy, which I haven't seen, Jeanne Bardey et Rodin: Une élève passionnée - La bataille du Musée Rodin, by Hubert Thiolier.

Jeanne Bardey, Portrait
Etching, 1913

From her work, Jeanne Bardey appears to have shared some of the inward-looking sense of quiet that, in the case of Gwen John certainly, can mask a furiously passionate nature. My works by Bardey, especially the 1932 drypoints for an edition of Sous l'Olivier by Édouard Herriott, almost recede into the page - but there is something about the stance of that Greek boy that suggests a turbulent personality behind this reticent facade. It's probably too fanciful to see an echo of her relationship with Rodin in the centaur and the nymph, though like many of these drypoints it does have a distinct sculptural quality.

Jeanne Bardey, Shepherd with sheep
Drypoint, 1932

Jeanne Bardey, Delos
Drypoint, 1932

Jeanne Bardey, Bull's head
Drypoint, 1932

Jeanne Bardey, Greek boy
Drypoint, 1932

Jeanne Bardey, Centaur and nymph
Drypoint, 1932

Jeanne Bardey, The Parthenon
Drypoint, 1932

Herriott's text on Greece, published in an edition of only 136 copies, appears to mark the end of Jeanne Bardey's career. Although Jeanne Bardey exhibited at various Paris Salons between 1909 and 1930, her intimiste work has never won wide recognition. Much of it ended up in her hometown of Lyon, divided between the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Jeanne Bardey died in 1948.


Jane Librizzi said...

Another talented woman ensnared by Rodin. From most of my reading,it seems that Rodin's studio was a den of iniquity. Rilke's book on Rodin is an exception. My guess is that Rilke was as myopic about his hero's behavior toward women as he was about his own. Jeanne Bardey's work joins that of Claudel and John in showing that bad behavior isn't necesaary for the making of art.

Admin. said...

Rainer Maria Rilke was quite more smart and brilliant than Auguste Rodin; I know I am not really objective at all because I am so interested in reading his masterpieces!

You easily notice his unique way of thinking through his letters with Lou Andrea Salome, and with some other pen-pals; his words were deep, well-chosen and full of poetry!

Auguste Rodin was not known for his rhetoric at all.


Neil said...

Hard to compare Rilke and Rodin, I think, even though they knew each other so well. Both tortured and difficult souls, but not really kindred spirits. If I had to choose to keep the work of one or the other, I would choose Rilke. But that only means that - even though this blog is about the graphic arts - I still prioritize words over images. Rodin thought with his hands, Rilke with his words.