Emile Zola (1840 -1902)
Letter from Émile Zola to Rodin
1891 (14 August)
Ink on paper
H. 21.5 cm ; H. 27 cm
In 1888, the Société des Gens de Lettres had commissioned a Monument to Balzac from the sculptor Henri Chapu (1833-91).However, the artist died before completing his sketch and, thanks to the influence of Émile Zola (1840-1902), appointed chairman of the society in 1892, Rodin was chosen to complete the project . Like the other members of the society, Zola wanted the monument to be finished by 1 May 1893 – the writer was then nearing the end of his novel Doctor Pascal, the last episode in the Rougeon-Macquart series. But Rodin, who was going through a difficult period in his life, worked much more slowly than hoped for.
Despite the strained relationship that developed between the sculptor and his clients, Zola, whose role was also called into question by his peers, supported Rodin until the work was finally unveiled in 1898. That same year, in a virulent article entitled “J’accuse”, published in the newspaper L’Aurore, Zola focused his attention on the defence of Captain Dreyfus.