New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently featuring an exhibit of works by the mid-19th Century French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Unfortunately for Carpeaux, I had the chance to look at several rough-hewn sculptures of Rodin at the Met before I came to the Carpeaux exhibit.
There is much that Carpeaux excelled at. He had the intense mastery of human anatomy that early sculptors possessed. He knew how the muscles moved, and he could skillfully depict those muscles under a figure’s vestments. Best known perhaps for his sculptural figures at the Paris Opera, Carpeaux was also a perceptive portraitist in his busts.
But Carpeaux’s younger contemporary Rodin went beyond him in depicting that which the eye cannot easily see. And this ability places Rodin beside Michaelangelo as the most important sculptor of modern times.
Still, the Carpeaux exhibit has considerable value. By placing preliminary sketches and terra cotta models alongside finished statues, it shows us the process that is essential to art.
It runs at the Met from March 10th through May 26th.