Alma Mahler (1879-1964)‘s father-in-law, the painter Carl Julius Rudolf Moll (1861-1945), wanted Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) to portray Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) as a tribute to the musician following his departure from the Vienna Opera in 1907. The encounter between the artists, both at the height of their glory at that time, was arranged, and Rodin made Mahler pose a dozen times in the month of april, Year 1909.
- 17-11-1908 Carl Julius Rudolf Moll (1861-1945) writes Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) to inform.
- 15-12-1908 Sophie Clemenceau-Szeps (1862-1937) writes Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).
- 19-04-1909 until 30-04-1910 Gustav Mahler was in Paris.
- 22-04-1909 Paul Clemenceau (1857-1946) invites Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) for lunch.
- 23-04-1909 First meeting between Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in Cafe de Paris, arranged by Paul Clemenceau (1857-1946).
- 24-04-1909 Start sittings. Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) made seven different models.
- 30-04-1909 The sittings were difficult to endure for the nervous composer, who saw rest as “time wasted away from his work,” as Alma Mahler remembered. Dépôt des Marbres, 182 Rue de l’Université. A session lasted about one and a half hours. Mahler is not sitting still. Alma Mahler (1879-1964) and Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) were also present. Several “society girls” at Rodin walked through the studio. Here he meets Alfredo Casella (1883-1947). At one point Rodin asks Mahler to bend something over so that he can see the top of his head well. Mahler thinks that Rodin asks to kneel before him, refuses and runs away badly. Rodin had wanted to work even further. After the last session they agree to continue in October. The sessions cover a total of 10 days. Rodin eventually makes two preliminary studies: A rough and expressionistic and a smooth, more natural version. After the death of Mahler, Rodin had his assistant Aristide Roussaud make a marble sculpture of the smooth and natural preliminary study. This is in Musée Rodin and has the name “Mozart”. We do not know why that is the case. Possibly for commercial reasons or as a reference to the last words of Gustav Mahler: “Mozart”. Mahler’s sessions with Rodin in Paris were a ‘marvelous experience’ according to Alma Mahler (1879-1964): ‘Rodin fell in love with the model.’ She later recalled: ‘He was really unhappy when we had to leave Paris, for he wanted to work on the bust much longer. He said Mahler’s head was a mixture of Franklin’s, Frederick the Great’s and Mozart’s’. Rodin created two finished busts slightly different in appearance. It took 1,5 hour standing still a day.
- 11-06-1909: According to Daniele Gutmann 10,000 plus 2,000 francs for each of the five bronze copies was to be paid.
- 08-10-1909 until 12-10-1909: Second series of sittings.
- 11-1909: Carl Julius Rudolf Moll (1861-1945) went to Paris to choose which one was to be cast in bronze. Moll decided to share the total cost of the bust with four friends by selling each of them a copy at 2,400 francs. While making the bust, Rodin altered his conditions and now demanded 2,000 francs for each copy, rather than 2,000 for all five, making a total of 20,000 francs for the entire commission. Moll finally agreed to pay 12,000 francs for five copies but renounced his right to exclusivity, with the result that Rodin could produce the bust as often as he liked. In his memoires, Carl Moll states that he finally accepted a price of 20,000 francs and that he was incensed to discover that Rodin had exhibitioned and sold copies of the bust at the Berlin Secession in 1911 before he himself had received his first copies.
- 1909: Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) initially made seven different preliminary studies in both plaster/terracotta (related to bronze Model A) and clay (related to bronze Model B) from which he selected two different effigies of Mahler.
- Carl Julius Rudolf Moll (1861-1945) chose in 11-1909 in Paris the one that would be used for the bronze.
- 07-07-1910: Toblach: For his fiftieth birthday Mahler gets a book with a photo of the bust on the front and commissions from his admirers from Vienna (who were behind the initiative) and from Auguste Rodin.
- 12-1910: Carl Julius Rudolf Moll (1861-1945) received copy No. 1 of Model A that had be commissioned.
- 1910: A series of bronze was made by the Rudier foundry from 1910 and the work was successfully exhibited throughout Europe as early as 1911. Rodin made several preliminary studies and final versions in bronze and marble in Mahler’s final years of life.
- 03-1911: When Carl Julius Rudolf Moll (1861-1945) took delivey of the copies that Mahler’s family and friends had ordered, he noticed that they were not identical with the one he had previously received, and so at first they were going to be sent back to the sculptor. On refelection, however, Mahlers Viennese admirers decided to accept the second version, Model B and in 08-1911 Moll asked Rodin to send him three copies of it, promising to return those of the Model A busts that were already in his posession.
Model A and Model B are two phasis of Rodins work. According to Frederic Grunfeld:
Model A: “roughly handled and “Expressionist””, bolder and more experimental, and probably from a later phase than Model B. The chin is more pointed, the face narrower, and the jaw less firm than Mahler’s one, while the relatively rough surface attests to the speed with which Rodin worked, ceaselessy adding little balls of clay, which he then proceeded to smooth in his ‘quest for greater expressivity’. Asymmetrical. The righ-hand side of the face is more sunken and darker than the left-hand side, and the right eye reflects more of Mahler’s inner life than the left one. One in a traditional and realistic style, which was used for the creation of the white marble known as the “Man of the Eighteenth Century” or “Mozart” (see below).
Model B: “relatively smooth-skinned and naturalistic”. The surface is far smoother, and the more rounded chin is clearly that of Mahler himself. The style is more traditional and realistic, with the bone structure more apparent and much more precise delineation of the feautures. The other with a more lively pattern and nervous, giving the face a strong expressiveness. By adding matter on the forehead and around the eyes, the sculptor makes the composer’s and conductor’s gaze more acute, echoing the words of the composer when he said: “If I were not obliged to wear glasses, I would conduct with my eyes.” (Paul Clemenceau, 1989).
Alma Mahler refused the 6 first busts sent by Rodin (Models A) and sent them back to Rodin who produced 6 Models B with a red marble cube.
Distribution of the Models B and Models A (2019)
There are 21 different Mahler Rodin busts known:
The first 5 Models B in the distribution list are probably the ‘most’ original.
- Vienna – Hohe Belvedere (Model B). The one Alma kept for herself. Belvedere.
- Munich – Neue Pinakothek (Tschudi donation) (Model B). It is not known how this bust ended up in Munich. Neue Pinakotheek.
- Dresden – Albertinum (Klemperer) (Model B). The one Alma gave to Otto Klemperer (1885-1973). Albertinum.
- Washington DC – National Gallery (Lotte Walter) (Model B). The one Alma gave to Bruno Walter (1876-1962).
- Canada – University of Western Ontario (Alfred Rosé) (Model B). The one Alma gave to Justine (Ernestine) Rose-Mahler (1868-1938). Now in the Music Library of the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rosé Collection – University of Western Ontario.
- Vienna – Staatsoper (Model B). The one Alma gave to Vienna State Opera in 1931 for the 20th anniversary of Mahlers death was destroyed by the nazi’s. She gave another one to the city of Vienna in 1948 as a replacement.
- New York – Brooklyn Museum (Model B). Brooklyn Museum.
- New York – NYC Metropolitan Museum (Gelman) (Model B). Metropolitan Museum.
- Moscow – Musée Pouchkine (Sergei Kusevitsky) (Model B). Pushkin Museum.
- Paris – Musée Rodin (Model A Bronze). The Musée Rodin has many plasters and the original moulds (that we used to produce 20 facsimile in 2012). Owns seven different preparatory studies, three terracotas of Model A and four plaster casts of Model B. Musee Rodin.
- Paris – Médiathèque Musicale Mahler (MMM) (Model A). Acquired by Henry Louis de La Grange in the 60s.
- Strasbourg – Musée d’art moderne (Model A). Musee Moderne.
- Prague – Narodni Galerie (Model A). Narodni Galerie.
- Kiel – Kunsthalle (Model A).
- Winterthur – Winterthur Kunstverein (Model A).
- New York – NYC Lincoln Center (Model A).
- New york – NYC Kaplan Foundation (Model A) (sold?).
- Philadelphia – Rodin Museum (Model A) 1926.
- Harvard – Fogg Museum (Model A).
- Paris – Private collection Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (Model A).
- London – Private collection Valerie Solti (Model A). It was acquired by The DECCA Recording Company from the Marlborough Gallery and presented to Georg Solti to celebrate his long association as a recording artist with that company. It is in Georg Solti’s studio.
Marble buste by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) (date unknown). Executed from recollections of the sessions with Mahler for the bronze busts (Model A and Model B). Although Rodin was especially proud of the likeness he had achieved, the marble bust was mislabeled ‘Mozart’. Even today, the Rodin museum in Paris still labels the work ‘Mozart (Gustav Mahler)’.
- Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) decided to make the marble in 10-1910.
- Completed in 1911.
- Rodin refused to exhibit it anywhere but in Paris.
- Donated to the French state.
- Rodin museum, Paris, France.
Mahler Rodin buste and the Netherlands
In 1912 the bronze bust was shown for the first time in the Netherlands, as Rodin’s entry for the International Exhibition of Contemporary Art in the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, where it was for sale for 1.100 guilders. If only the Stedelijk Museum or the Concertgebouw had bought that Rodin.
Twice later, Amsterdam was offered a Mahler-Rodin, but both times everything went wrong. The Amsterdam painter Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918) eventually bought the statue of Rodin, which was exhibited in Amsterdam, on condition that she gave it to the Stedelijk Museum.
Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918) painted the head of Mahler after his death with a bunch of flowers in front of the pedestal. That painting hangs on the upper corridor of the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw behind the organ. But after the death of Schwartze in 1918, the statue was never given to the Stedelijk Museum.
In 1938 Mahler’s widow Alma wanted to donate her Rodin copy (up to 1963 made more than fifty casts) to the Concertgebouw, but that failed as well. It was the time of the Anschluss of Austria with Germany and Alma Mahler lived in Paris. The statue ended up at the Dutch consulate in Vienna and was handed over to the Vienna Philharmonic after the war. Amsterdam reacted too late and too weak – the ‘Amsterdam’ Mahler statue is now in the foyer of the Vienna State Opera, of which Mahler was chief conductor for ten years.