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Constantin Meunier (1831 -1905)
H. 54.5 cm ; W. 18.3 cm ; D. 14.2 cm
Cast by J. Petermann, Bruxelles
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Meunier was one of the leading Belgian artists of his day. He turned to sculpture after trying his hand at painting. His work focused mainly on the depiction of working people. Like Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838-1902), in particuliar, he was sensitive to the emotion, dignity and sombre beauty that emanated from the figures of manual workers whom he portrayed on several occasions. Compared to Michelangelo because of the power exuding from his sculptures, he infused these subjects with a force echoed in literature by Zola, whose characters also had an innate sense of tragic dignity and strength. As was customary, especially where Rodin was concerned, the work was given by the artist to the French sculptor, after the first Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, in 1890, in exchange for a small group called Women Embracing.
In France, Rodin’s support was important for Meunier’s career. They both readily used exaggerated proportions to better indicate the strength of manual workers’ hands or ploughmen’s “colossal” backs, or the attitudes shaped by labourers’ tasks. Portrayed here is a glassblower, a skilled craftsman, an aristocrat among ordinary working men.