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Hidden in the Shadow of the Master

Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-Wives of Cézanne, Monet, and Rodin

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Hidden in the Shadow of the Master
    Book Description:

    Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and Auguste Rodin. The names of these brilliant nineteenth-century artists are known throughout the world. But what is remembered of their wives? What were these unknown women like? What roles did they play in the lives and the art of their famous husbands?

    In this remarkable book of discovery, art historian Ruth Butler coaxes three shadowy women out of obscurity and introduces them for the first time as individuals. Through unprecedented research, Butler has been able to create portraits of Hortense Fiquet, Camille Doncieux, and Rose Beuret-the models, and later the wives, respectively, of Cézanne, Monet, and Rodin, three of the most famous French artists of their generation. The book tells the stories of three ordinary women who faced issues of a dramatically changing society as well as the challenges of life with a striving genius. Butler illuminates the ways in which these model-wives figured in their husbands' achievements and provides new analyses of familiar works of art. Filled with captivating detail, the book recovers the lives of Hortense, Camille, and Rose, and recognizes with new insight how their unique relationships enriched the quality of their husbands' artistic endeavors.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14953-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  4. [Illustration]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Recognizing the Model and Her Work
    (pp. 1-12)

    I visited the Musée Rodin in Paris for the first time many years ago. I still remember the pleasure I felt in the gallery devoted to Rodin’s early works when I spied one particular portrait in plaster. It was of a young woman whose full lips were slightly apart. She appeared breathless, eager, totally alive, her long hair a-tangle, giving the illusion of being windblown, although the transformation from plaster into hair had not fully taken place. She had high cheekbones, and there was a penetrating quality in her direct gaze, her lowered eyebrows, and the way she turned her...

  6. Part I: Hortense Fiquet

    • ONE Hortense Fiquet and Paul Cézanne
      (pp. 15-28)

      “My wife likes only Switzerland and lemonade”: this was a joking—and demeaning—remark tossed off by Paul Cézanne when speaking about his wife, Hortense. Somebody repeated it. It was repeated again, and it has ended up in book after book about the painter ever since. “Cézanne was shy and intellectual, while she was superficial and drawn to the gay life of Paris,” writes the author of the catalogue description forMadame Cézanne in a Red Armchairin the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This doesn’t quite match the image of a woman with a small child and a small...

    • TWO Single Mother
      (pp. 29-36)

      Camille Pissarro, Paul’s friend from the Académie Suisse, was the person who rescued the little family. Pissarro, an artist rejected at the annual Salons almost as frequently as Cézanne, had taken his wife and children to London when war broke out. Upon returning to their home in Louveciennes after the war, they found that their house, having been used by the Germans as a barracks, was now a wreck. An extraordinarily generous homeopathic doctor and a passionate art collector, Dr. Paul Gachet, now came to their aid by finding them a place to live in Pontoise, a town to the...

    • THREE Sixty Francs for Hortense
      (pp. 37-47)

      The dean of Cézanne studies, John Rewald, believed that Hortense Fiquet’s entrance into Cézanne’s life did “not appear to have influenced either his art or his relationship to his friends.”¹ Writers often imply that once a son was born to Paul Cézanne, his romance with Hortense was over. Certainly during the period when the couple lived in Auvers, Cézanne was fully focused on how to advance in his chosen way, setting about to create as many works as possible. It was a period of acquiring new technical skills, of investing his energies in landscape and the world around him, especially...

    • FOUR Hortense at Thirty: In the Salon, in the Garden, in Bed
      (pp. 48-55)

      “My wife, who is in charge of providing our daily bread, knows the difficulty and cares that that entails. So she shares these worries with Madame Chocquet and sends her, as does your servant, her most respectful greetings. As for the child, he is a terror in every way and promises worse to come.”

      These sentiments are included in a letter Paul Cézanne wrote to Victor Chocquet in February 1879. At the time, Cézanne, Hortense, and Paul fils were staying in L’Estaque. You might think that this was a nice ordinary little family.

      Cézanne did not date his paintings. Thus...

    • FIVE A Dark Blue Wedding Dress?
      (pp. 56-66)

      In the spring of 1885 Paul Cézanne wrote out a draft for a letter:

      I saw you, and you allowed me to kiss you; from that moment, I’ve been agitated by a profound unrest. You will forgive the liberty of writing you taken by a friend tormented by anxiety. I don’t know how to excuse this liberty, which you may consider an enormous one, but could I remain in this depression? Isn’t it better to show a feeling than to hide it?

      Why, said I to myself, keep silent as to the source of your torment? Isn’t it a solace...

    • SIX Fifteen Hectares of Fallow Land
      (pp. 67-77)

      When eighty-two-year-old Claude-Antoine Fiquet died in Lantenne on December 14, 1889, Hortense was in Paris. It would be June before she was able to travel to the province in order to settle his will. Fiquet died alone. His passing was declared at themairieby his landlord. He left but a single meager plot of land to his only child. Hortense’s inheritance amounted to fifteen hectares of fallow land, worth about forty francs. The title was turned over to her husband, who signed thedeclarations des mutations.This document in the departmental archives of Le Doubs in Besançon also records...

    • SEVEN For or Against Hortense?
      (pp. 78-85)

      In 1925, while the English art critic Roger Fry was in Paris trying to understand Cézanne’s landscapes, he wrote to a friend: “To get really into such a nature is difficult. It’s very complicated to begin with and life changed him enormously—perhaps that sour-looking bitch of a Mme counts for something in the tremendous repression that took place” (letter to Helen Anrep, May 1, 1925).

      In November 1960, Paule Conil, one of Cézanne’s four nieces, published some personal memories of her uncle in theGazette des beaux arts.Among other things, she indicated that “no one ever speaks about...

    • EIGHT After October 1906
      (pp. 86-92)

      Six weeks before Cézanne died, he wrote a letter to his son in Paris. He wanted him to know of his enormous confidence in the “direction in which you are taking our aff airs.” Paul fils had been and remained the principal person to oversee the sales of his father’s pictures, and he did so by working in concert with Ambroise Vollard. What had convinced the Cézannes that Vollard was to be their exclusive dealer was the energy he had put into mounting the Cézanne exhibition in 1895. At that time Cézanne was barely known in Paris, thus the project...

  7. Part II: Camille Doncieux

    • NINE Camille Doncieux and Claude Monet
      (pp. 95-111)

      “Assez convenable”—“quite suitable.” These words appear in a letter that Frédéric Bazille wrote to his mother on April 5, 1869. He was describing the family of Camille Doncieux, soon to be married to Claude Monet.¹

      The two men, now best friends, had come to Paris from the provinces earlier in the decade, Monet in the hope of establishing himself as an artist, Bazille honoring his family’s desire that he become a doctor, while quietly carrying the germ of an artist in his heart. They met in the spring of 1863 in the painting studio of Charles Gleyre, just in...

    • TEN Camille—Or—The Green Dress
      (pp. 112-118)

      Autumn arrived. Bazille had remained in Montpellier with his family. Monet was back and forth between Chailly and the Paris studio the two painters now shared at 6, rue de Furstenberg in thequartierSaint-Germain des Près. Not only was it a fine and ample space where they could both live and work, it overlooked the studio and garden where Delacroix had worked until his death two years earlier. It gave the place a certain cachet. Monet established his twenty-foot canvas and began preparing for the final composition. In the middle of October he wrote urgently to Bazille: “You must...

    • ELEVEN A Garden Full of Dresses
      (pp. 119-127)

      Even beforeL’ArtisterecognizedCamilleas the “triumphant Queen of Paris,” and before Zola had singled out Monet asthenew talent in the Salon, as that “man in a crowd of eunuchs,” model and artist had left the city. Camille moved away from her family, presumably without their blessing or approval, and Monet fled his creditors. The nineteen-year-old girl could not possible have imagined that most of her future would be lived under the shadow of severe financial insecurity.

      Despite the popularity ofCamille,it had not attracted a buyer. Of course the Beguin Billecocq family had been generous...

    • TWELVE Without a Sou
      (pp. 128-136)

      In May 1867 Frédéric wrote to his father in Montpellier that his atelier was so stuffed with his own work that, when Monet had arrived, he had obliged him to put his paintings under the bed where he slept. No document informs us as to the whereabouts of Camille, now six months pregnant.

      Monet must have talked about the problem a great deal while he stayed at Bazille’s. I suspect it was Bazille’s idea that he simply inform his father of what had happened and appeal to him for help. That’s what Bazille would have done. Oscar wrote home on...

    • THIRTEEN Why Did He Marry Her?
      (pp. 137-149)

      Almost three years after the birth of Jean, on whose birth certificate Claude Monet and Camille Doncieux appear as man and wife, they got married. For the little family, the period separating the two events was one of frequent moves, enormous uncertainty, and debilitating poverty. Monet’s professional life did not improve; it was a time of egregious affronts and perilous failures. But Monet continued on, painting seascapes, still lifes, and an occasional portrait, his desire for success always in the foreground of his mind.

      After the phenomenal number of rejections at the Salon of 1867, Bazille organized a petition and...

    • FOURTEEN The Second Empire Disappears
      (pp. 150-155)

      That summer of 1870, with the threat of war in the air, Monet decided to bundle up as many paintings as he could and cart them over to store at Pissarro’s home in Louveciennes. By July 19, the day on which France declared war on Prussia, Monet had settled with Camille and Jean in the Hôtel de Tivoli in Trouville, a fashionable seaside resort across the Seine estuary south of Le Havre.¹ Nine days later, a very ill Emperor and his fifteen-year-old son left Paris for the front. It was a wild dash to war, a war without allies, and...

    • FIFTEEN The “Impressionist” Couple
      (pp. 156-172)

      The Monets were back in Paris by November 1871. This was at about the same time that Paul Cézanne and Hortense Fiquet returned to the city. Claude settled Camille and Jean into a hotel near the Gare Saint-Lazare, an area they knew well and, fortunately, one that bore few physical scars from the Commune. Shops were open and cafés were bursting with customers. It must have been a relief to be back. And they probably had little time to worry about the generally shaky state of affairs such as the “provisional” status of the new republic. But, like the Cézannes,...

    • SIXTEEN Money and La Japonaise
      (pp. 173-185)

      In the 1860s Monet had tried to fool his family into thinking that Camille and her child would not become a permanent part of his life. But even if he had been as successful as Cézanne in hiding the woman and the boy, it is clear that Monet’s father would not have given him the allowance he needed. Monet became enraged when Bazille suggested he go to work, that is, that he enter the employ of someone else in order to make money. It infuriated him that Bazille, child of wealth, from a family willing to support their son’s ambition...

    • SEVENTEEN A Patron
      (pp. 186-193)

      In June 1876 Théophile Beguin Billecocq attended a dinner with his wife at the home of Ernest and Alice Hoschedé. The Monets and Georges de Bellio were also there. Théophile took note of the “plush lifestyle” in the apartment on the boulevard Haussmann, one made comfortable by numerous servants and majordomos, “but for my taste it’s all a little too nouveaux riche.” In the course of the evening he learned that Claude was to go to the couple’s country home—the château de Rottembourg in Montgeron, fifteen miles southeast of Paris—at the end of the summer to do some...

    • EIGHTEEN Death in a Village by the River
      (pp. 194-202)

      In the spring of 1878 Paris was ready to celebrate. Had it been only a few years earlier that France faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans, followed by Paris becoming the breeding ground for the revolution of the Communards? Now, to the astonishment of the rest of Europe, France appeared reborn. She would be host to a universal exposition marking the “baptism of the Republic,” and it seemed everyone in the city had the energy to prepare for its inauguration on the first of May. On that day Paris was alive with joy, taking pride in...

    • NINETEEN Epilogue
      (pp. 203-204)

      As far as we know, the household on the road to La Roche-Guyon continued somewhat unchanged for two more years, although Ernest was more and more preoccupied with his new role as editor of an art journal in Paris. At first Claude and Alice pressed him to spend more time with his family. Not surprisingly, tensions—especially over money—developed, and by the summer of 1881 the relationship between Monet and Hoschedé was no longer friendly. If Monet was in Vétheuil, Hoschedé was excluded. When Hoschedé came for his son’s First Communion, Monet managed to be out of town. Late...

  8. Part III: Rose Beuret

    • TWENTY Rose Beuret and Auguste Rodin
      (pp. 207-215)

      Camille Doncieux and Hortense Fiquet would probably not have become friends if they had met, and, as far as we know, they never did. Their husbands, however, might have encountered each other in a café in Batignolles before either girl came into their lives in the later years of the Second Empire. In the 1870s, both men were involved in the exhibitions of independent artists. The first independent show in Nadar’s studio in 1874 was such an important event that we can imagine the two women making their way to the gallery on the Right Bank. Did they see each...

    • TWENTY-ONE From Vecqueville to the Banks of the Bièvre
      (pp. 216-221)

      Conceptually the ideas that grew into a French national rail system were worked out during the July Monarchy. The railroads were to become central to the creation of a national territory. They would replace river navigation, and, as an international transit system was developed, the Atlantic ports would become the ports of Europe. The bureaucrats and engineers of the Second Empire put most of it in place, and how well the system worked is clear from the role the new railroads played in the lives of every individual in this book. It was how Cézanne and Zola got to Paris...

    • TWENTY-TWO A Woman’s Body
      (pp. 222-231)

      With the collapse of the Empire and the establishment of a parliamentary form of government, social thinkers hoped that some of the problems faced by women like Rose Beuret would be ameliorated. But change was slow in coming, and even at the end of the century a writer/politician such as Charles Benoist continued to think about the modern needle-worker in terms that could have described Rose’s life in the 1860s. He saw these laborers as modernday martyrs, describing thegargoteswhere they took their meals as greasy spoons, “filled with masons, carpenters and messieurs of every kind.” Among his friends...

    • TWENTY-THREE Montmartre and the Commune
      (pp. 232-240)

      Soon after his son was born Auguste Rodin moved his new family to Montmartre. The change is usually described as necessary so that he could walk to the studio of Albert Carrier-Belleuse, who was now his employer. Carrier-Belleuse, who was the most prominent commercial sculptor of the Second Empire, had an atelier on the rue de la Tour-d’Auvergne in the Ninth Arrondissement. The rue Hermel, Rose and Rodin’s first address in Montmartre, was certainly closer to the Carrier-Belleuse establishment on the rue de la Tour-d’Auvergne than they would have been had they remained on the other side of the big...

    • TWENTY-FOUR Ixelles
      (pp. 241-249)

      “I went everywhere in Belgium,” reads a line in a manuscript in the Library of Congress in Washington. But the “I” is penciled out, and inserted in its place is a “we.” The sentence and the change are part of the notes that American sculptor Truman Bartlett took down during his conversations with Rodin in 1887. This small correction betrays a fundamental fact about the years Rose and Auguste spent in Belgium: they experienced them together as a couple, and more than a decade later Rodin remembered them as “beautiful.”

      This was Rose Beuret’s second journey by train, and, though...

    • TWENTY-FIVE The Return Home
      (pp. 250-258)

      When Rose boarded the train for Paris in December 1877, we imagine her reviewing her memories of a war-torn city. But upon her arrival, she found much changed. To the world’s amazement, Paris had regained a great deal of her former splendor. Buildings were being restored, new streets had become working thoroughfares, department stores were enlarged, the splendid cafés on the grand boulevards were packed with patrons, and a multitude of new theaters had opened their doors, most especially the Opèra, that fabulous unfinished legacy of the Empire. The avenue de l’Opèra, widely viewed as the most beautiful street in...

    • TWENTY-SIX The Commission That Changed Everything
      (pp. 259-272)

      Rodin returned home that winter to find the city so cold that the Seine had frozen over. These were bitter days, and not just because of the weather. As Rodin approached his fortieth birthday, he was profoundly aware he was still living the life of a journeyman sculptor, spending most of his time on projects that were not his and that gave him little satisfaction. However, two things had happened in 1879 that offered some hope. His Salon entry, aBust of Saint John,though ignored by critics, was recognized by the judges as worthy of an Honorable Mention. The...

    • TWENTY-SEVEN A House in Meudon
      (pp. 273-281)

      “One morning a moving cart stopped in front of the old house. Rodin himself supervised the loading of a few pieces of furniture and a large number of sculptures onto the cart. He said that for his wife’s health, as well as his own, they were obliged to move to the country. He chose Bellevue and they moved into an apartment in a narrow little lane called the chemin Scribe.”¹

      But it wasn’t Rose’s health that made them leave Paris. A broken heart was more like it. As Camille Claudel needed breathing space, so did Rodin; the move established distance...

    • TWENTY-EIGHT The Dark Side of Being the Old Mistress of a Genius
      (pp. 282-297)

      Balzacwas finally finished in 1897. At last the public would be able to see Rodin’s statue. On May 1, the opening day of the Salon of 1898, visitors immediately grasped its monumental presence at the far end of the Galeries des Machines in the Champs-de-Mars. It was big, white, and grand. Clearly its power was extraordinary, yet a drumbeat of condemnation was quick to sound—ordure(garbage) andmonstreusewere adjectives favored in the press. The real blow, however, came on May 9, when the Société issued its statement: “The Committee of the Société des Gens de Lettres regrets...

    • TWENTY-NINE The War and the Wedding
      (pp. 298-311)

      The silent faces of Parisians reflected the solemn facts of the news. Buses, requisitioned to transport troops, began disappearing from the streets. Rodin left the Hôtel Biron and headed for Meudon in the automobile he had recently purchased, but he was stopped and his car commandeered for government use. A peasant heading toward Meudon gave the artist a ride home in his cart. When Rodin arrived at the Villa des Brillants, he found Rose in tears. Their horse, Rataplan, had also been seized. Further, “Rodin was totally without money.”¹

      At first the news from the front was positive. The French...

    • AFTERWORD “The Humble Son of a Genius”
      (pp. 312-314)

      The ceremony uniting Auguste and Rose as man and wife was not a lengthy one, but, as it took place, Marcelle Martin became aware of how difficult it was emotionally for Auguste Beuret. When it ended, he “suddenly burst out crying like a child and would not have any lunch.” He understood that no measures had been taken for him to be recognized. He would never be “legitimate.”

      After the birth of their unwanted child, neither Rose Beuret nor Auguste Rodin found themselves in possession of many instinctive parenting skills. They abandoned their son when he was young and paid...

  9. APPENDIX The Value of Money
    (pp. 315-319)
    (pp. 320-322)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 323-334)
    (pp. 335-344)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 345-354)