Robert WLERICK (1882 - 1944)
Young Woman Arranging Her Hair
Bronze proof with black patina, #1/10
Lost wax cast by Claude Valsuani
Signed and numbered: "R. Wlérick" "1/10"
Founder's stamp on the back: "CIRE / C. VALSUANI / PERDUE" ("LOST / C. VALSUANI / WAX")
H. 56, W. 27, D. 33 cm
Charles Nilsson Collection, Sweden
-Gustave Kahn, “Robert Wlérick”, L’Art et les Artistes, n°141, Nov. 1933, p. 44-49
-Robert Wlérick, Paris, Rodin Museum, March 31 - June 28, 1982; Mont-de-Marsan, Despiau-Wlérick Museum, July 17 –September 26, 1982, repr. n°97, p.88-89 (n°4/10 reproduced).
-Robert Wlérick (1882-1944), Mont-de-Marsan, Despiau Wlérick Museum, 1991.
-Robert Wlérick, études, esquisses et dessins (studies, sketches, and drawings), Paris Musées, 1994.-Wlérick, L’Annonciade Museum in Saint-Tropez, March 26 – June 20, 1994.
-Robert Wlérick, Actes du colloque (papers from the colloquium), Musées Mont-de-Marsan, 1995, repr p.69, fig.46 (n°MMM reproduced).
-Patrice Dubois, Robert Wlérick, Entre sentiment et monumentalité (Robert Wlérick, Between Emotion and Monumentality), Paris, AXA, December 2004 - January 2005.
Young Woman Arranging Her Hair was cast in an edition of ten (numbered 1 through 10) with another two artists proofs (E.A.) as well as an additional proof marked "MMM" that has a gold patina and is held in the Despiau-Wlérick Museum in Mont-de-Marsan (Inv. MM224). The original plaster is held in the Sainte-Croix Museum in Poitiers (Inv. 967.15.5). The one presented here is the first proof and comes from a private collection in Sweden. The presence of the "BRONZE" stamp on the sculpture attests to the quality of the casting. Proof #4 was shown in 1982 at the Rodin Museum in Paris and at the Despiau-Wlérick Museum in Mont-de-Marsan.
This work is the last complete figure that Wlérick created before he died in 1944, and it is perfect in line with the representations of women for which the artist had become well-known since the end of the 1920s. As early as 1921, he created Seated Bather, which he kept in his own dining room, which shows a spirit and composition close to that of the Young Woman Arranging Her Hair . Several sculptures he created later, such as Hellenic Calm (1928-1929), Meditation (1930-1931), Youth (1935), and The Offering (1936) are all variations in which he presented women seated on a cubic form. The sharp edges of the cube contrast with and accentuate the curves of the feminine body placed securely upon it. The center of gravity is solidly anchored, allowing the limbs a fluidity free of tension. Young Woman Arranging Her Hair also constitutes the ultimate affirmation of the classicism so dear to Wlérick, subtly combining tranquility, balance, and sensibility. "Contrary to French sculpture of the end of the 19th century, there is no anecdotal, literary, or decorative reference here . . ." These qualities were promoted by the "Bande à Schnegg," which Wlérick joined in 1906, introduced by his older fellow-citizen Charles Despiau (1874-1946). The group of artists came together under the initiative of Lucien Schnegg in 1904, in reaction to the art advocated by Rodin, who, however, praised Wlérick's talent when he saw his Little Girl from Landes at the 1912 Salon.
"At the root of all his work is a strong, immediate emotion in response to a face, a body, followed by a long period of research, of maturation, to arrive at a point of perfection, of completion, in which the volumes, planes, and lines mingle and harmonize with tranquility and fulfillment . . . " This description of Wlérick's creative process helps us understand how the sculptor arrived at the extremely accomplished work that is Young Woman Arranging Her Hair. The architecture of perfectly arranged planes became possible only after numerous intermediary stages, beginning with a first model in clay, in which he fixed the emotion. As far as we know, none of the intermediary stages of this work remain. He also addressed the theme of a woman seated in various positions on a cubic form in several drawings.
Though the title indicates an action in process, that of a young woman doing her hair, the artist depicts not so much a motion unfolding in the moment as the truth and accuracy of an attitude. The measured gesture animates a composition whose dynamic rhythmic is established by the carefully positioned feet in relation to the hands, just as the angles of the bent legs echo those of the bent arms. Wlérick stated his concept of movement clearly: "I hate movement that displaces line."
The model for this work was one of the artist's two daughters, Jacqueline. He liked to use people close to him as models; the affectionate relationship between the sculptor and his model permeates the work, which exudes a strong gentleness, a contained sensuality, and a welcoming intimacy. There are also red pencil drawings of Jaqueline from around the same period, such as Jacqueline Seated, Arms Crossed (1942-1944). In 1942-43, he also used his daughter as the model for the bust Jacqueline; a proof of this work with a gold patina is held in the National Museum of Modern Art (Inv. AM809S), and three other proofs are in the museums of Calais and of Sainte-Croix in Poitiers (Inv. 967.14.4), and in the fine arts museum in Lyon (Inv. 1950-1).
(1) The "BRONZE" stamp indicates that this is a casting made after the 1935 law passed to certify the quality of the bronze alloy used, fixing the minimum amount of brass in the composition at 65%. Information taken from Elisabeth Lebon, Dictionnaire des Fondeurs de bronzes d'art, Marjon Editions, 2003, p. 90.
(2) Seated Bather, 1921, bronze with gold patina #1, lost wax cast by Barbedienne, H. 52 cm, in Robert Wlérick, Paris, Rodin Museum, March 31 – June 28, 1982; Mont-de-Marson, Despiau-Wlérick Museum, July 17 – September 26, 1982, repr. #27, p.37.
(3) Patrick Elliott in Robert Wlérick, études, esquisses et dessins (studies, sketches, and drawings), Paris Musées, 1994, introduction, p.8.
(4) The two sculptors are both from Mont-de-Marsan, a commune of Landes.
(5) Paul Roudié in Robert Wlérick, 1994, exhibition catalogue, p.11.