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  • Design Credit: Samantha Todhunter Design Ltd., Photo Credit: Oliver Clarke. Dimensions: H 25 in. x W 20.5 in.
  • Design Credit: Lucy Harris Studio, Photo Credit: Francesco Bertocci. Dimensions: H 25 in. x W 20.5 in.
  • Design Credit: Timothy Godbold, Photo Credit: Karl Simone. Dimensions: H 25 in. x W 20.5 in.
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Auguste Rodin
Rare Rodin Watercolour & Pencil on Paper of a Seated Nude - The Cambodian Dancer




Auguste RODIN (1840-1917) Seated Nude, Cambodian Dancer c. 1898 - 1900 Pencil and watercolour 11.5 x 9.3 inches; 25 x 20.5 inches, inc. frame Provenance: Christie's South Kensington: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 "It's very simple. My drawings are the key of my art." Rodin was an extraordinary creative artist and a prolific worker. After attending the “Petite École”, he worked in the studio of the ornamentalist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, first in Paris, then in Brussels, where his skill in handling decorative subjects fashionable in the 18th century became apparent. His discovery of Michelangelo, during a visit to Italy in 1875-76, was a decisive moment in his career. Rodin would, in turn, break new ground in sculpture, paving the way for 20th-century art, by introducing methods and techniques that were central to his own artistic aesthetics. In 1906, King Sisowath of Cambodia visited France on an official state visit. It was on this visit that Rodin discovered the dancers of the Cambodian Royal Ballet and was inspired to draw and paint them over 150 times. They made a deep impression on the artist, as he confided to Georges Bourdon, in an article for the newspaper Le Figaro on 1 August 1906: “There is an extraordinary beauty, a perfect beauty, about these slow, monotonous dances, which follow the pulsating rhythm of the music… [The Cambodians] have taught me movements I had never come across anywhere before…” Originally seeing them in Paris he left everything suddenly to follow the dancers of the royal ballet to Marseille, from where they would embark on their return to Cambodia. In just one week, he made about one hundred and fifty drawings, re-transcribing or interpreting the ballet poses, with an obvious fascination for the arms and hands of the dancers. These drawings were later highlighted with watercolour, creating coloured harmonies of a rare refinement. The first performance of the Cambodian Royal Ballet took place in the context of the Colonial Exhibition in Marseille. Sisowath 1st had just been crowned King of Cambodia when he undertook the first trip ever to be made by a Cambodian sovereign to France, which had controlled Cambodia since June 1884. This official visit occurred at the height of French colonial expansion. Previously, the Universal Exhibition of 1900 had attracted 48 million visitors! The organisers realised what a tremendous impact this event made on the public, and it was soon adopted as the main tool for colonial propaganda. At the exhibition in Marseilles, the area devoted to Indochina was the largest of the seven sections. When Auguste Rodin met the troupe of dancers for the first time in July 1906, during their brief visit to Paris for an exceptional performance at the Pré Catalan theatre, it was like a revelation to him. He was struck by the timeless and universal nature of the movements of this dance, which transformed this relatively unknown form of art into a manifestation of the universal principle of the “unity of nature” through time and space. This encounter came as such a shock to Rodin that he immediately started a first series of drawings. However, the dancers were expected elsewhere, and Rodin, therefore, dropped everything to follow them to Marseille, not even taking with him the necessary paper and drawing material. Rodin likened the dancers to “those engraved in the stone ten centuries ago,” his renderings also modernized his subjects, using them as a starting point for invention and experimentation. To Rodin, as to his compatriots, the Cambodian Royal Ballet seemed to be the direct descendants of a hazy and ever-receding pre-modern world. In sketching the dancers, Rodin created his own colonial myth.


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