Are Degas' sculptures real or reproductions?
This debate about the bronze sculptures of Degas will go on, and on, and on. Perhaps it is the same with Rodin's bronze.
[url=http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2007/07/02/0702artfeed.html]Are Degas' sculptures real or reproductions?[/URL]
July 02, 2007, A North Florida gallery owner is making accusations of "fraud" about an upcoming Degas exhibit at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, but museum officials say his objections are "meaningless."
Gary Arseneau, a Jacksonville-area artist and gallery owner, has long had problems with posthumous works ascribed to famous artists. His latest beef is with an exhibition of Degas sculptures that will appear in January at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
The show will feature 74 sculptures cast in bronze after Degas' death in 1917. Arseneau argues these are mere "reproductions," since the famed French artist never touched the bronzes, or even saw them. To call them "Degas sculptures" is to engage in "fraud," he said.
Museum officials call his charges "meaningless." They say the museum has been completely open about the works' complicated history.
"We never claim that Degas touched these bronzes," said museum curator Wendy Blazier. "This exhibition is about the history of the sculptures, and our understanding of Degas" and his working methods.
The museum's board president, Michael H. Gora, also noted that the bronzes have been accepted as representative of Degas' work in sculpture by institutions ranging from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, to the federal National Endowment for the Arts, which has underwritten a portion of insurance expenses for the traveling exhibition.
The bronzes' history is well known. The famed Impressionist painter also created sculpture, although he exhibited only one piece in his lifetime. After his death, dozens of small works in various materials were found in his studio. Many depicted his favorite subjects, such as race horses and ballet dancers.
Perhaps with visions of French francs in mind, his heirs had these works cast by a Parisian foundry. Arseneau contends Degas' studio pieces were actually touched up by the foundry to make it possible to cast them in bronze. In turn, other bronzes were later cast from these pieces. He said the result was often "third generation" objects that "belong in a museum's gift shop."