Emile Antoine Bourdelle was one of the leaders of twentieth century monumental sculpture and was qualified by the iconic master Rodin himself as “a pioneer of the future”. Rodin became a great admirer of Bourdelle’s work, and in 1893 Rodin took him on as his assistant. He loved Bourdelle’s sculpture because of its personal nature and correspondence to his sensitive nature as well as his passionate and fiery temperament. The great philosopher Bergson admired Bourdelle's approach and his artistry:
“What strikes me as soon as I look at one of your works is that each part seems to contain the whole. Isn't that the mark of perfection?”
Bourdelle thought of sculpture in monumental terms with a real understanding of scale and was committed to executing public works. His sculptures were built, almost architecturally constructed from the inside outwards. Bourdelle’s appreciation for structure and natural form, combined with classical heroic themes and a modern, personal innovation, reveal an inner strength and quality of rhythm and force.
As noted by the French painter Maurice Denis,
“…Whether a symbolist or an idealist Bourdelle created expressive geometric shapes and he told stories; he was a dramatist, a lyric, epic poet…he molded matter into whatever he wanted the world to hear, be it grief or joy, anguish or truth, was or peace.”.
L’ Art Pastoral or Monument á Debussy was created by Bourdelle as a tribute to the French composer Claude Debussy, as part of Bourdelle's obsession with the belief in commemorative sculpture. The success in the piece lies in his passion and verve for creating memorials without losing sight of the integrity of the sculpture. He believed in the redirection of sculpture to its task of rendering the monumental. Strengthening the bonds that linked the sister arts, sculpture and architecture, by stressing their deep rooted and basically human function. He saw the need for restoring to outdoor sculpture its power of expression, of returning it to its proper scale and dimension. It was necessary also to tear it away from academic clichés of the studio, to conceive it in real space, to let it breathe in a natural setting or in the spacious framework of a great urban decorative scheme. The very essence of a being or a thing, or the creative power of the mind, is what sculpture achieves in its greatest success. The subject matter itself - A faun with two goats on rocks is a direct reference to one of Debussy's most famous works the Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun (1894).
Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun wasinspired by a poem written by Stephane Mallarme. This is probably Debussy's best-known orchestral work. The work inspired by and intended as a musical interpretation of Mallarmé’s poem evokes a pagan landscape in which the faun (a mythological creature of the forest who is half man, half goat) awakes in the woods and tries to remember. Was he visited by three lovely nymphs or was it a dream? He will never know. The sun is warm, the earth is fragrant. He curls himself up and falls into a wine -drugged sleep. This was Debussy's first major piece. The piece established the style of Impressionist music and initiated Debussy's most productive period which lasted 20 years. Mallarmé thought the music a perfect counterpart to his poem. It is not surprising Bourdelle would choose the faun and goats as subject matter for a monument to Debussy. He sees this piece as being Debussy's signature and the faun as representing Debussy as the father of the Musical Impressionist period. This piece was the first to make Debussy’s name known across Europe. Bourdelle saw this major accomplishment fitting a proper tribute.
Debussy was at the forefront of musical Impressionism, a style where the composer focuses more on creating a sense of atmosphere or mood than on telling a story. By using new combinations of chords including whole-tone chords, focusing on chromatics, and using exotic scales, Debussy creates the musical equivalent of an Impressionist painting.
The primary aim of French music, Claude Debussy wrote in 1904, "is to give pleasure." Debussy, more than anything, was interested in the sensuous quality of music. Even as a student he let his concept of sound override many of the rules he was so assiduously taught by his teachers (much to their consternation). Here is where Bourdelle sees similarities between himself and the composer. From this he developed a style that was wholly his own, but that also owed much to a wide variety of disparate influences. Allusions to music are to be discovered again and again in art. Artists often seem to aspire towards a music method of organizing a composition.
A notion central to Bourdelle's aesthetics is the separation of the image or symbol of the work of art from the source or object it represents, so as to arrive at a feeling for the fleeting and corruptible nature of reality, for the sense that life is illusory, or simply a dream. For artists like Bourdelle and Debussy, the image or symbol of the work of art cannot be derived from the phenomenal world, but rather must be stripped of all literary associations, so that the emotions of the spectator can soar directly and freely toward the supposed eternal essence, the mystery of things, their spiritual significance, and the universal idea. Instead of illustrating scenes from poems, art should only use very clear symbols that do not rely on any written text. The idea can be read without effort. They awaken the imagination of the spectator without extraneous effort. The forms created only provide a pretext for the emotion to expand indefinitely.
Estate and Collection of Anders Jordahl, Millstone, NJ