A Sculptor in the Stacks

A photo of Rodin's Psyche et l'Amour. From the Dawson Family Papers.

All of the hoopla surrounding the grand opening of the North Carolina Museum of Art’s expansion this past weekend, including the unveiling of 29 sculptures by Auguste Rodin, reminds us of a few items in the RBMSCL stacks: a 1911 volume of Rodin’s conversations with Paul Gsell entitled L’Art, inscribed by Rodin to Warrington Dawson, and two caches of Rodin letters.

Warrington Dawson (formally, Francis Warrington Dawson, Jr.) was an American novelist and journalist who lived in Paris for most of his life. He tells of how he came to know Rodin in a 1913 letter to James Brand Pinker, printed in Duke Professor Emeritus Dale B.J. Randall’s volume Joseph Conrad and Warrington Dawson: The Record of A Friendship:

I first met him [Rodin] in 1899. . . . I called as a newspaper correspondent to write an article about his work, but he was struck by my comments and invited me out to his house at Meudon. He told me that I had the knack of expressing in words just what he had expressed in stone or bronze. . . . Some ten or eleven years ago I was first privileged to see his notes, and I recognized their great value; I proposed to him then that he should allow me to prepare them for publication. He promised me that I alone should do this work when he was ready for it, but did not feel that the time had yet come when the public was prepared.

This collaboration was never completed, and the friendship dissolved, but Dawson’s transcriptions and translations of Rodin’s French notes and his correspondence with Rodin survive in the Dawson Family Papers here at the RBMSCL. The papers also include a few striking contemporary photographs of Rodin’s sculptures.

There are also seventeen letters from Rodin to Marie Hopkins, dating from 1904 to 1915, in the Field-Musgrave Family Papers. Rodin’s gorgeous penmanship in many of these letters is a lovely and understated accompaniment to his epic sculptures now on display down the road in Raleigh.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.