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Fine Arts

Paul Dardé (1888-1963)

The main body of the Fine-Art Collection of the Museum of Lodeve is made up of the works of  Paul Dardé (1888-1963). Many works were gathered from the artist's studio and acquired by the city of Lodeve in 1972. Others have been acquired since 1987 as part of the museum's collection development policy.  The collection today comprises nearly 2,800 drawings and 567 sculptures of Paul Dardé, making the Museum of Lodeve the benchmark institution for the production of this artist.  

Due to work on the collection (conservation and restoration) as well as the renovation and extension of the museum, the Paul Dardé collection is not currently on view.

Dardé the Sculptor

The work from his studio, enriched by subsequent acquisitions, exhibits a great diversity. This diversity is shown both in works from different periods and at a variety of stages of finish – models, casts, full-size pieces and bronzes. The connections and dialogue between the works – studies and finished pieces – allows us today to understand better the creative process of Paul Dardé.

Dating from the start of his career are some high relief gypsum pieces together with some clay models. In these models the subjects seem to emerge from the material, as if Dardé was merely revealing them, pulling them out from the earth or stone. There are numerous works from the 1920s, a period when the sculptor enjoyed a certain notoriety, having won the National Art Prize in 1920. Among works from this period are a Head of Christ (cast in bronze by Rudier), Large Seated Faun, (Euville stone), a model for Laocoon (plaster), Child with a Hare (marble), The Great Fireplace, the series of busts from Macbeth (plaster) and Prehistoric Man (plaster and stone). Despite the success he encountered, Dardé never succumbed to ease or triviality. He stood by a freedom and fierce independence that is the hallmark of the man and his work. From the 1930s on, the collection holds, most notably, his Mocked Christ, The Damned Woman and an Ophelia.

Dardé the Illustrator

The 2,800 works on paper that comprise the collection fall into two main categories – preparatory drawings for his sculptures and his series of grand illustrations, illustrating the great literary works of Shakespeare and the like. The artist who often signed himself 'Paul Dardé, sculptor' produced drawings of a formidable power and in a variety of media – often in Chinese ink but also in wash or gouache.

Biographical note - Paul Dardé (1888 – 1963)

Paul Dardé was born in 1888 in the village of Olmet, near Lodeve, into a peasant family. He left school at the age of 13, but frequented the local library and was an avid reader – from the Bible to Zola, via Dante and Shakespeare.

When an adolescent, his father allowed him to transform a corner of their cellar into a painting and sculpture studio. At 24, he did his military service in Montpellier and spent some time at art school and also in Rodin's studio. Just one year later, in 1913, he created one of his masterpieces, a Head with Snakes (also titled Eternal Misery) in gypsum. The state acquired this work six years later and it is today housed in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. In Montpellier he received his first commission for  a public sculpture, a statue of Joan of Arc. During the first months of World War One he was enlisted as a stretcher-bearer. He was to be deeply traumatised by the war, but never-the-less continued to produce several drawings.

In 1919 he married Alice Caubel, and the state gave him an old studio of Rodin. It was here that he created the Large Seated Faun, which won him, in 1920, the National Art Prize.

At 32, Dardé left Paris to return to the Lodeve region and settled in Soubes. Here he created the first of his War Memorials. Three years later, he started The Great Fireplace, (today housed in the Halle  Dardé, Lodeve) which he presented the following year at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts. The Great Fireplace did not find a buyer, no doubt because of its intentionally monumental scale. The costs of such an ambitious work contributed to plunging Dardé into significant financial difficulties. This resulted in the auctioning off of his studio and its contents.

With very meagre means, the artist was helped out by a few friends including the American film-maker Rex Ingram, who employed him in one of his films, The Magician, for Metro Golwyn Meyer. In 1927 Dardé found lodgings respectively in Nice, Nîmes, la Vacquerie and Chaumes-en-Brie (where he worked on monument of René Quinton), and then lastly in Lodeve – a small studio near the station – where he created Prehistoric Man for the National Prehistory Museum in the Dordogne, the  Mocked Christ, and The Damned Woman which featured several years later at the national 'Salon des Artistes'.

In 1936, at the age of 48, Dardé started building a large studio in Saint-Maurice Navacelles. Twenty years later (in 1956) he left Saint-Maurice Navacelles and moved in with one of his sisters in Lodeve. Here he continued to produce a huge volume of drawings, but the state of his health declined and, due to the very physical nature of sculpting, he was no longer able to work on large-scale pieces.

He died in hospital in Lodeve on 29 December 1963.

A Brief History of the Collection

In 1972, the city of Lodeve acquired the contents of Paul Dardé's studio from Alice Dardé. The collection was then exhibited in the Hotel Cardinal Fleury (the present Museum of Lodeve) with its inauguration in 1987.

In 2014, work started on the extension and renovation of the Museum of Lodeve. The new space will include 350m2  dedicated to the work of Paul Dardé.


Contemporary Art

The recently established contemporary art collection consists of works connected with past exhibitions, mainly gifts bequeathed by the artists themselves (Alain Campos, Ofer Lelouche, Odon, Ionas, André-Pierre Arnal...). Several of these works have a particular link with the city of Lodeve, to which the aforementioned were invited as Artist-in-Residence.

The contemporary art collection is not currently on show.