In 1897, Kuehne Beveridge arrives in Paris to study sculpture with Auguste Rodin. At the time, Rodin is already recognised as the greatest sculptor of his time and American artists, mainly female, come in numbers to study with him. They come to Paris to improve their technique and find new benefactors. Rodin is the obvious choice thanks to its reputations and its Academy, Institut Rodin created by Antoine Bourdelle, Jules Desbois and Rossi, which opens in 1899 and closes in April 1900, despite its success.
Thanks to the letters kept at the Musée Rodin in Paris, which I acceded through The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, we can learn about their master-pupil relationship.
The first letter dates from 1897, so we can assume that she starts her training around that time, or even earlier. Her letters are a mixture of praise to Rodin and stories of her travels around Europe.
|Kuehne Beveridge, Anonymous|
Beveridge seems to be in utter admiration towards Rodin, which is not surprising knowing the celebrity status of Rodin especially in America. She addresses her letter to “dear master” or “dear Monsieur Rodin”. Her letters show the respect she has for him and for his work. She refers to his sculpture in London, probably the subscription of 1898 by James Whistles for a sculpture of Saint John the Baptist. She also talks about Rodin’s idea to have her pose for a sculpture.
|Saint John The Baptist, Auguste Rodin, 1879-1880, Victoria & Albert Museum, London|
The second theme of her letters is about her work and her artist life. She travels a lot in Europe, to see her mother who lives in Germany, but also in London where rents a studio for three months. An interesting aspect of these letters are the advice or help she asks to Rodin. She often mentions his authority and asks him if he could talk about her work to different salons and institutions. One letter seems to refer to her will to exhibit, at the Salon des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1898, two busts. Beveridge clearly knows how influential Rodin is and tries to “take advantage” of his prestige and connections in the art world. She is not only a devoted pupil, she is also an artist who wants be recognised.
|M. Auguste Rodin, Edward Stein, 1911, Brooklyn Museum, New York|
Her last letters, around 1907, revolve around her project for an exhibition as a curator. She wants to set up an exhibition with Rodin, along with other international artists. She talks about a museum Switzerland which might accept or she might do it in New York. This shift in her career is rarely documented and we do not know if she has ever done this exhibition.
This short overview of Kuehne Beveridge and Auguste Rodin’s letters allows us to understand the complex relationship between a master and his pupil, a female pupil. Unfortunately, we only have around twenty seven letters, only from Kuehne Beveridge to Rodin and none of Rodin’s responses.
More info on Kuehne Beveridge here.