Emile-Antoine Bourdelle was born in Montauban, Southern France, on 30 October 1861. At the age of 13, Bourdelle began taking drawing classes in the evening, where he studied copies of antique plaster casts. In 1876, he was given a scholarship at l'École des beaux-arts de Toulouse. After studying there for eight years, Bourdelle passed the entrance examination for l’École des beaux-arts de Paris and entered Alexandre Falguière’s studio in 1884. He would leave two years later. In 1885, his plaster cast of La Première victoire d’Hannibal won a medal at the Salon bringing him early recognition, though he still had to earn a living and joined Auguste Rodin as a sculptor’s assistant in 1893.
From 1900, Bourdelle began to build his reputation: he was commissioned to decorate the theatre of the Musée Grévin, Paris, and founded a sculpture school in Montparnasse that year – Henri Matisse was a student during the school’s brief existence. He had his first solo exhibition in 1905 at foundry owner Hébrard’s gallery on Rue Royale and exhibited at the Salon d’Automne for the first time. He left Rodin’s studio in 1908. The following year, he began teaching at the Academie de la Grand Chaumière, where Alberto Giacometti, Germaine Richier, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Otto Gutfreund were among his students. In 1910, Bourdelle exhibited at the Salon de la société nationale des beaux-arts and his Héraklès archer was acclaimed by both the public and critics. Bourdelle also exhibited at the Armory Show, New York, in 1913.
Bourdelle would work on numerous commissions over the latter decade of his life: the façade and atrium of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris (1910-1913); La Vierge à l’offrande, Alsace (1919-1923); La France, Grand Palais (1925); Monument au général Alvéar, Buenos Aires (1926); Monument à Adam Mickiewicz, Paris (1929). Bourdelle died on the 1 October 1929.
The Musée Bourdelle was inaugurated in 1949 in Paris. Bourdelle’’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Cleveland Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM), Rome; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique, Brussels; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
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