Woman Reading, ca.1876, cast 1902
Aime-Jules Dalou (1838-1902)
H. 56.1; W. 43.9; D. 35.3 cm
This little gem was discovered on one of my weekly walks through one of the museum's galleries (I try to go once a week during lunch and spend time with things I've neglected up until now). I never noticed the piece before and adore the beauty and simplicity of the sculpture, and it doesn't hurt that the subject is a woman reading. This particular image comes from the collection of the Musee d'Orsay, as a number of statuettes were most cast from the original model, in various materials, stoneware, porcelain and bronze.
This particular statuette stems from an original model, Femme nue lisant dans un fauteuil
(Nude Woman Reading in an Armchair). This is my first foray into the work of Jules Dalou as a I rack up the areas of omission in my art historical brain (with the plethora of art history, that shall always be the case, happily!). My late 19th c. knowledge of sculptors is horribly limited to Rodin and it turns out Dalou was considered his rival for France's greatest sculptor! (as I read more, bits of memory float back so I am pretty sure he may have crossed my radar in the past but apparently did not stick!) "Dalou played a major role in French cultural life by providing influential alternatives to the Academy and the Salon as arbiters of modern art. He was a founding member of the Société des Artistes Français and later a founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts." (NGA bio)
Dalou had a strong belief in political and social equality, and is known for his statues of workers, in addition to grand-scale public works in Paris. Despite this, his domestic, more intimate realistic sculptures of women actually inaugurated the genre at the Salon in 1870 as the move beyond Academic Art (idealization of the human figure in this case) continued.