Main>> Artist Biographies

Clodion

Clodion


Artist name Clodion
ThB name: Clodion
Proper name: Michel, Claude
Sex: m
Artist occupation: sculptor
Geographical data: France; Italy
State: France; Italy
Date of birth: 1738.12.20
Place of birth: Nancy
Date of death: 1814.03.28
Place of death: Paris
Place(s) cited: Paris; Rome; Nancy

French sculptor. He was the greatest master of lyrical small-scale sculpture active in France in the later 18th century, an age that witnessed the decline of the Rococo, the rise of Romanticism and the cataclysms of revolution. Clodion's works in terracotta embody a host of fascinating and still unresolved problems, questions of autograph and attribution, the chronology of his many undated designs, the artistic sources of his works, and the position of his lyric art in the radically changing society of his time.
1. Training and Roman period, to 1771.
2. Career in France up to the French Revolution.
3. Later career.


1. Training and Roman period, to 1771.
Clodion trained in Paris with his uncle Lambert-Sigisbert Adam, whose mannered, late Baroque works grace the gardens of Versailles and of the Sanssouci Palace at Potsdam. He encountered in Adam's sculpture qualities of warmth and intimacy, and a spirit suited to designs on a small scale, traits his own oeuvre would sustain. Adam even created small bacchanalian groups, a concept of great importance for Clodion.
In 1759, the year of his uncle's death, Clodion won the Prix de Rome for sculpture. He remained in Paris, however, as a student at the Ecole Royale des Elèves Protégés until 1762, when he left for Rome to begin an Italian sojourn of nine years. This stay, for part of which he shared a studio with Jean-Antoine Houdon, was crucial in shaping his art. Antique sculpture, the art of Michelangelo and the great early marbles of Bernini in the Villa Borghese at Rome affected him deeply. Bernini's small terracotta studies for monumental designs doubtless also impressed Clodion with their intimacy and dynamism, arguing for the excellence possible in work on a small scale, the mode ultimately central for him.
The Roman terracottas address a wide array of figure-types, themes and technical challenges. The beautiful Penitent Magdalen (195×195×250 mm, 1767; Paris, Louvre), is semi-recumbent in pose, like the ancient Cleopatra in the Vatican. A Baroque psychological richness and a consummate freshness of technical handling stamp her grieving figure with Clodion's unmistakable fire. River Rhine (305×279×457 mm, 1765; Fort Worth, TX, Kimbell A. Mus.), displays the wide torso and extended arms, the physical bulk and acrobatic lassitude of Pietro da Cortona's Defeated Giants, a fresco in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome. Clodion's Minerva (h. 475 mm, 1766; New York, Met.), an elegant standing figure, is hieratic in tone, an antiquarian melding of two Roman exemplars studied in the Chiarimonti and Giustiniani collections. Egyptian Girl with a Shrine of Isis (h. 480 mm; Paris, Louvre) contrasts the archaic style of its tiny idol with the easy contrapposto of the maiden. Archaeological discoveries made at Hadrian's Villa in the 1760s echo here, as they do in the art of Piranesi. Clodion's pictorial friezes balance intaglio linear passages with images subtly raised in very low relief. Vase with Five Women Offering Sacrifice (h. 389 mm, 1766; Paris, Louvre) is an elegant rilievo schiacciato, conceived in a style somewhere between the painterly atmospherics of Donatello's Delivery of the Keys (London, V&A) and the classical presence of the Gemma Augustea (Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.).

2. Career in France up to the French Revolution.
Clodion was reluctant to leave Rome, but in 1771 he was ordered to return to Paris by the Marquis de Marigny, Directeur des Bâtiments du Roi. There he was approved (agréé) by the Académie Royale in 1773 and established a productive workshop in the Place Louis XV. Clodion's early sculptures in relief prepare us for the brilliance of later designs, such as the Triumph of Galatea (terracotta, 298×1612 mm, exh. Salon 1779; Copenhagen, Stat. Mus. Kst.), whose trumpeting Triton rivals in impact the Marine Frieze on the Altar of Ahenobarbus (Munich, Glyp.). Vase with a Dance of Satyrs and Satyresses (Tonnerre stone, h. 1070 mm, 1782; Paris, Louvre) demonstrates a playful warmth and an atmospheric sensuality of surface, a work from an ensemble made for the bath at the Hôtel de Besenval.
The finest of his several works on a monumental scale is the marble Montesquieu, commissioned by the Comte d'Angiviller for the series the Great Men of France. A sparkling portrayal, the forceful, spiralling posture of the seated Montesquieu recalls Michelangelo's Erythrean Sibyl on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Rome. Clodion's greatest concentration, however, was on small terracotta groups. Satyr and Bacchante (h. 590 mm, c. 1780; New York, Met.) embodies the Baroque traits of the genre: a relief-like composition reminiscent of Bernini's Apollo and Daphne (1622-4; Rome, Gal. Borghese), a design at once sensuous, energetic and psychologically intimate. This seated, drunken satyr tips backwards as the advancing bacchante embraces him, his precarious posture recalling the Barberini Faun (Munich, Glyp.).
Clodion also created allegorical works, most notably a terracotta model for a monument to the Balloon Ascent of the Physicians Charles and Robert (h. 1105 mm; New York, Met.), the theme of a royal competition of 1784, an unrealized project intended for the Tuileries Gardens. This is composed of a sphere, representing the balloon, resting on a half-column, a severity of geometric form like that of the visionary architecture of Etienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. Over these crisp solids moves a low-relief layer of billowing smoke clouds rising from fires stoked for hot air by a throng of putti. The putti are in very high relief, their joyous movements leading to the focal figure of a trumpeting Fame atop the sphere. For the spectators of 1783 the fateful meaning of the balloon ascent was that the seemingly limitless power of scientific principle now overshadowed the waning capacities of the absolute monarchy. This level of meaning is perhaps implicit in Clodion's symbolic contrast of the great looming sphere of Science (a kind of orb of dominion) with the frail figure of Fame, the latter an allegory associated with rulership at least since Roman times.

3. Later career.
Clodion spent the years c. 1793-8 in Nancy away from the hazards of Revolutionary Paris. After his return the tone of his work became cool and restrained, as in the elegant embrace of the terracotta group Zephyrus and Flora (h. 527 mm, 1799; New York, Frick). Their entwined, mannerist dance recalls the palpably slow movement of Giambologna's Rape of a Sabine (1582; Florence, Loggia Lanzi). In Bacchus and Ariadne (h. 539 mm, 1798; Philadelphia, PA, Mus. A.) Clodion imbued the god of wine with an ennobling, Neo-classical quotation from the stance of the well-known Borghese Mars, its long diagonal line ordering this mythological abduction. Nobler still, Scene from the Deluge (h. 533 mm, 1800; Boston, MA, Mus. F.A.) shows a vigorous, bearded man carrying across his shoulders the limp body of a drowned youth. Essentially a pastiche of several similarly burdened figures in Michelangelo's Deluge fresco in the Sistine Chapel, this late design also reflects a preference for longer flowing lines, like those in the engravings of John Flaxman. As a moral statement suited to the tenor of the strife-ridden Napoleonic era, and as a winner of a first-class medal at the Salon of 1801, Scene from the Deluge attains the greatest possible distance from the titillation and caprice of many of Clodion's earlier terracottas. During the Empire period, Clodion worked mainly as a highly placed artisan, executing the academic concepts of others. He carved a marble relief after a design by C. Meynier, Napoleon's Entry into Munich (2.00×3.75 m, 1805-6), for the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris. He modelled some 15 of the total of 75 relief panels designed by P.N. Bergeret for the Colonne de la Grande Armée (1807-9) on the Place Vendôme; he was also a member of a team of artists charged in 1807 to create a model for the standing figure of Napoleon intended to crown the column
Museums
Terracotta: AGEN, MBA. BAYONNE, Mus. Bonnat: Poesie and Music, Bas-relief. BESANÇON, MBA: Mon. à Fifi, Modell (Magazin des MN de la Renaiss. in Ecouen). BLERANCOURT, MN de la Coopération franco-amér.: Projet pour le revers de la méd. Libertas Amer., Medaillon. BOSTON/Mass., MFA: Vasenpaar, Dekor: spielende Kinder. CAMBRIDGE/Mass., Fogg AM: Jeune fille portant un enfant sur son épaule gauche; Jeune fille portant son enfant sur son épaule droite, Statuetten. CHERBOURG, Mus. Thomas Henry. CINCINNATI/Ohio, AM. CLEVELAND/Ohio, Mus. of Art: Satyre enfant courant avec un hibou; Satyresse enfant courant avec un nid; Jeune fille présentant des guirlandes de roses sur un plateau, alles Statuetten. DETROIT/Mich., Inst. of Arts: Satyre tenant une bacchante qui tient par la main un satyre enfant, Gruppe. FORT WORTH/Tex., Kimbell AM. KOPENHAGEN, Statens Mus. for Kunst. LONDON, V;A: Nymphe couronnée par des Amours; Enlèvement de Psyché, Gruppen. - Sir Brinsley Ford Coll. LOS ANGELES, County Mus. of Art. - J.Paul Getty Mus.: L'Offrande à Priape, Gruppe. LUGANO, Thyssen-Slg: Jeune fille und Jeune homme courant, entourés par des amours, Gruppen. NANCY, Mus. hist. lorrain: Mon. à Ninette, Modell; Leda und der Schwan, Gruppe. - MBA: L'Offrande à l'Amour, Basrelief. NEW YORK, Arthur M.Sackler Found.: Jeune femme tenant un vase et une cassolette sur un plateau; Jeune femme tenant une couronne de fleurs sur un plateau, Statuetten. - Metrop. Mus.: Music; Archit., Basreliefs; Bacchant debout présentant une grappe de raisin à une bacchante, avec un enfant qui lève les bras; Bacchante brandissant un thyrse s'appuyant sur l'épaule d'un satyre, avec satyre enfant; Satyre enlacant une bacchante qui lui propose du vin, Gruppen. - Oscar de la Renta Coll. - Frick Coll. OTTAWA, NG of Canada. PARIS, Mus. Cognacq-Jay: Mon. à un chien, Modell; Bacchante courant, Statuette. - Louvre: Egyptienne au naos, Statuette. - Petit Pal.: Sieg der Ariadne, Basrelief. - Mus. Nissim de Camondo: Jeunes bacchantes, zwei Büsten. PASADENA/Calif., Norton Simon Mus. PITTSBURGH/Pa., Carnegie Mus. of Art. SAN MARINO/Calif., Huntington Libr., Art Coll. and Botanical Gardens: Jeune femme jouant avec un enfant qu'elle soulève devant elle et qui la regarde; Jeune femme portant devant elle un enfant dans ses bras, Statuetten. STOCKHOLM, NM. ST.PETERSBURG, Ermitage: Vasenpaar mit Dekor spielender Kinder; Jeune fille tenant une corbeille de fruits sous son bras droit et un enfant sous son bras gauche, Statuette. TOLEDO/Ohio, Mus. of Art: La Bascule, Gruppe. WADDESDON MANOR, Nat. Trust: Bacchante courant tenant sur son épaule gauche un thyrse chargé de raisin, et de sa main droite des grelots attachés à un bâton; Bacchant courant avec deux thyrses sur les épaules et deux canards suspendus, Statuetten; Bacchant portant un vase, accompagné d'une bacchante avec un tambour de basque rempli de fruits sur la tête et tenant un enfant par la main, Gruppe. WASHINGTON/D.C., NG of Art. - weitere Arbeiten: CHICAGO, Art Inst. LONDON, V;A. MAISONS-LAFFITTE, Mus. du Château. NANCY, MBA. - Mus. hist. lorrain. NEW YORK, Metrop. Mus. PARIS, Louvre. - MAD. - Pal. du Luxembourg, Senat. - Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. - Colonne de la Grande Armée. PHILADELPHIA/Pa., Mus. of Art. ROUEN, Kathedrale. SEMUR-EN-AUXOIS, Mus. Dumont. SEVRES, MN de Céramique. TOLEDO/Ohio, Mus. of Art. VERSAILLES, Château. WASHINGTON/D.C., NG of Art.
Bibliography
ThB7, 1912 (Lit.). Lami II, 1911; DA VII, 1996 (Lit.). - L.A. Dingé, Not. nécrologique sur C., P. [ca. 1814]; J.-J. Guiffrey, GBA 8:1892, 478-495; 9:1893, 164, 176, 392-417; A.Jacquot, Réunion des Soc. des BA 21:1897, 667-739; H.Stein, BSHAF 1911, 182-199; J.-J. Guiffrey, AAF, nouv. pér., 6:1912, 210-244 (Nachlaß-Inv.); T.Hodgkinson, NG of Canada bull. 1974(24)13-21; A.L. Poulet, C. terracottas in North Amer. coll. (K Frick Coll.), N.Y. 1984; id., The Art Inst. of Chicago, Mus. stud. 15:1989(2)138-153, 177-180; id., J.of the MFA, Boston 1991(3)51-76 (Skulpt. zur Sintflut); G.Scherf, Rev. de l'art 1991(91)47-59; A.L. Poulet/id., C. (K Louvre), P. 1992; C. et la sculpt. franc. de la fin du XVIIIe s., actes du colloque, P. 1993; G.Scherf, Rev. du Louvre 1993(3)54-60 (Homère mordu par les chiens); id., Pays lorrain 1993(3)139-146 (Leda); id., Péristyles (Nancy) 1994(4)19-24 (Offrande à l'Amour).
Other
L.-A. Dingé: Notice nécrologique sur M. Clodion (Paris, 1814)
H. Thirion: Les Adam et Clodion (Paris, 1885)
J.-J. Guiffrey: 'Le Sculpteur Claude Michel, dit Clodion (1738-1814)', Gaz. B.-A., n. s. 2, viii (1892), pp. 478-95; ix (1893), pp. 164-76, 392-417
G. Varenne: 'Clodion à Nancy: Ses années d'enfance; Sa maison et son atelier de 1793 à 1798', Rev. Lorraine Ill., 3 (1913), pp. 39-57
'Clodion', Conn. A., xl (1955), pp. 72-7
Hodgkinson: The Frick Collection: An Illustrated Catalogue, iv (New York, 1970)
James A. Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Sculpture (Fribourg, 1970)
"Houdon and Clodion", Apollo, xciii (1971), pp. 397-9
W. Kalnein and M. Levey: Art and Architecture of the Eighteenth Century in France, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1972)
F. Souchal: 'L'Inventaire après décès du sculpteur Lambert-Sigisbert Adam', Bull. Soc. Hist. A. Fr. (1973), pp. 186, 190
T. Hodgkinson: 'A Clodion Statuette in the National Gallery of Canada', N.G. Canada Bull., xxiv (1974), pp. 13-21
C. Avery: Fingerprints of the Artist: European Terracotta Sculptures from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Cambridge, MA, 1980)
Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre: Clodion et la sculpture française de la fin du XVIIIe siècle: Paris, 1982
Clodion Terracottas in North American Collections (exh. cat. by A. L. Poulet, New York, Frick, 1984); review by A. B. Weinshenker: in A. Bull., lxiv (1984), p.383-5
I. Wardropper: 'Adam to Clodion: Four French Terracotta Sculptures', Mus. Stud., xi (1984), pp. 22-37
Clodion, 1738-1814 (exh. cat. by A. L. Poulet and G. Scherf, Paris, Louvre, 1992)


HomeHome