September 21, 2023


Art For Everyone

Rebecca Fortnum on the Henry Moore Centre

5 min read

In my current put up on Gwen John I discussed that it was unlucky that for a few years she was regarded as one among Rodin’s fashions quite than as an artist in her personal proper. Just some days later I am reminded of this by an exhibition that focuses on Rodin’s relationship with different ladies in his life. There’s an exhibition on on the Henry Moore Centre in Leeds that’s of curiosity to portray, drawing, sculpture and set up practitioners. Rebecca Fortnum has managed to deliver all these practices collectively right into a small one room exhibition that demonstrates how sharply targeted analysis can be utilized to drive work ahead. It is usually an excellent instance of methods to curate a small house and with ultimate exhibits on the horizon, it will be helpful to go and see this exhibition if solely to evaluate how properly it makes use of the out there house. 

Rebecca Fortnum: ‘Les Praticiennes’ (Hoffman, Anna)’ 2022, oil on gesso board. Portray based mostly on unique work by Malvina Hoffman, ‘Masks of Anna Pavlova’ 1924, tinted wax, The Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, New York.

Rebecca Fortnum, ‘Les Praticiennes (Bernhardt, Louise)’ 2022, oil on gesso board. Portray based mostly on unique work by Sarah Bernhardt, ‘Louise Abbéma’ 1878, marble, Musée D’Orsay, Paris.

The cross fertilisation of various elements of observe is fascinating. To begin with we have now Fortnum’s work based mostly on images of sculptures. All of the work are made at an analogous measurement and orientation, in order that they match neatly right into a grid of photos. The unique topics would have been sculptures made by the ladies that Fortnum has researched. These sculptures would have been photographed on the time utilizing black and white movie, then these photos would have been rediscovered later both as unique photographic photos or as black and white prints of them in a e book. Fortnum then makes work of the faces of those sculptures working from the images, including color as she does so. Due to this fact sculpture, images and portray are fused collectively as Fortnum seeks to infuse life again into these photos, in some ways making these ladies come again alive to us by infusing the entire of 1 wall of the exhibition with color. 

On the adjoining wall are giant framed black and white drawings constructed from the faces of the sculptures these ladies labored on, most of that are in fact males. These photos are bigger, organised in a extra natural presentation and are made from a wealthy black chalk on paper. Thus making this wall extra imposing, particularly as these males primarily look immediately out at you, quite than turning their gaze inwards. 

On a 3rd wall is one giant black chalk drawing of a full size statue; Bessie Vonnoh’s Sarah Bernhardt. This single picture in some ways sums up the problems Fortnum is presenting. Vonnoh is offered as an artist who’s able to making full size sculptural portraits, Bernhardt is offered as a major lady of her time and by Fortnum isolating the drawing, we’re requested to consider this picture’s double significance. 

Rebecca Fortnum was a current artist researcher in residence on the Henry Moore centre and had used her time as a researcher to comply with the lives of girls who had labored with Rodin in the course of the time of his fame, both as studio assistants or as contributors in his artwork lessons.

Rodin devoted vital time to educating ladies to sculpt, in addition to using them as studio assistants. At the moment, different artists seldom labored with ladies and for probably the most half, ladies working in sculpture in turn-of-the-century Paris encountered demeaning prejudice. What 

Fortnum discovered was that each one of Rodin’s feminine assistants had extraordinary and generally unpublished, life narratives and he or she determined to subsequently make a physique of labor to treatment this. 

Fortnum chosen sculptural works by twelve ladies who she had researched and located to be not simply related to Rodin’s studio, however who had been making sculptures in their very own proper.  She has made portrait work from their work, and has exhibited these work towards hand designed wallpaper, the work forming an everyday rectangle set out towards the wallpaper’s steadily graded pink patterned floor. These photos of girls typically have their eyes closed or downcast, reflecting both an internal non secular life or a sure modesty that was anticipated of girls on the time. 

“In my choice these ladies are depicting ladies (typically a buddy or peer) with their eyes downcast or closed, trying away. I benefit from the ambiguity implicit in each the signalling of empowered absorption or self-containment alongside a studying of social conformity and feminine modesty. The viewer could determine which.” – Rebecca Fortnum

Probably the most intense picture that sits throughout the ‘male’ wall is that drawn from Camille Claudel’s Bust of Rodin. His beard is quite like a power of nature, cascading down like a waterfall, an indication of his male virility. This depth I think about is a component and parcel of what Fortnum is attempting to symbolize, the ‘heroic’ stance anticipated from romanticised male artists being maybe as a lot as a lure because the demure downward solid stances of the ladies depicted, each women and men trapped throughout the expectations of their time and society. The rewriting of historical past is nevertheless at all times simply that, it does not change what really occurred, it could actually solely be for the longer term. By seeing the previous for what it was we hopefully do not make the identical traps for ourselves once more, however as Margaret Atwood pointed out, ‘Males are afraid that girls will giggle at them. Girls are afraid that males will kill them.’ 

Camille Claudel: Bust of Rodin

Rebecca Fortnum, ‘Les Praticiennes (Warrick Fuller, Maxwell)’ 2022, carbon pencil on paper. Drawing based mostly on unique work by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, ‘Poet (Portrait of Maxwell Nicy Hayson)’ c. Nineteen Twenties, painted plaster

Rebecca Fortnum, ‘Bessie Vonnoh’s Sarah Bernhardt’ 2022, Carbon pencil on paper.

The total record of the artists which have offered supply materials for Fortnum’s work consists of:

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923)
Kühne Beveridge (1879-1944)
Camille Claudel (1864-1943)
Hilda Flodin (1877-1958)
Sigrid af Forselles (1860-1935)
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968)
Anna Golubkina (1864-1927)
Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966)
Madeleine Jouvray (1862-1935)
Jessie Lipscomb (1861-1952)
Clara Rilke-Westhoff (1878-1954)
Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872-1955)
Ottilie Maclaren Wallace (1875-1947)
Emilie Jenny Weyl (1855-1934)
Enid Yandell (1869-1934)

See additionally:

Whether or not or to not use principle Rebecca Fortnum approaches her analysis from a standpoint inside Feminist Idea. The exhibition is a transparent instance of how analysis can drive observe, however how do you determine what kind of principle to make use of as a help for analysis? 
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