Auguste Rodin

Mrs Charles Hunter


Not on display

Auguste Rodin 1840–1917
Object: 876 × 565 × 457 mm, 264 kg
Presented by Mrs Charles Hunter 1925

Display caption

Mary Hunter (1856-1933) was a well known society hostess in London. She
sat to Rodin at his house in Meudon
near Paris. There are several casts of her portrait in bronze, but Rodin admired
the 'marble' quality of her flesh, and
made this more elaborate version in
that material. He told her she was like
'an Englishwoman of the time of Pericles' (that is, in the great period of Greek sculpture). The base of the sculpture is
a cloudy, formless mound, decorated with a swag of roses, turning the head into
a symbol of beauty, as well as a portrait.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Auguste Rodin 1840-1917

N04116 Mrs Charles Hunter 1906

Inscribed 'A. Rodin' on l. side of base
Marble, 34 3/4 x 22 1/4 x 18 (88.5 x 56.5 x 45.7)
Presented by Mrs Charles Hunter 1925
Exh: 8th Exhibition, International Society, London, January-February 1908 (274); Exhibition of Fair Women, International Society, London, February-March 1908 (12); Modern Loan Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, November 1917 (76); Works by Auguste Rodin, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1917-18 (works not numbered, dated 1906); Rodin: Sculpture and Drawings, Hayward Gallery, London, January-April 1970 (120, repr.); on loan to the Bethnal Green Museum, London, since 1970
Lit: Judith Cladel, Auguste Rodin: L'Oeuvre et l'Homme (Brussels 1908), p.160; Jacques-Emile Blanche, Portraits of a Lifetime (London 1937), pp.123-4; Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin (Paris 1944), No.356; Jennifer Hawkins, Victoria and Albert Museum: Rodin Sculptures (London 1975), No.22, pp.29-30, repr. pls.32 and 33
Repr: L'Art et les Artistes, IV, 1907, p.407; L'Art et les Artistes, XIX, 1914, p.67

Mary Hunter, née Smyth (1856-1933), was the wife of Charles Hunter, a Northumbrian coal-owner, and a sister of Dame Ethel Smyth, the composer. She was one of the outstanding 'Beauties' of her period and a famous hostess who entertained extensively both in London and in her country house, Hill Hall, near Epping, including among her guests many leaders of the literary and artistic world. Sargent painted her portrait in 1898 and a group portrait of her three daughters, 'The Misses Hunter', in 1902 (both pictures are now in the Tate Gallery [N04469 and N04180]); it was probably through him that she met Rodin, though they also had other acquaintances in common. He stayed with Mrs Hunter on several occasions during his visits to London, and in the autumn of 1914 he and Rose Beuret were at Hill Hall for several weeks as refugees.

Mrs Hunter sat for her bust in Rodin's studio at Meudon. The present work seems to be his only version in marble (the material Rodin preferred for his female sitters), but there are also bronze casts showing her with the head erect and turned slightly to the left. In the marble, the head is inclined a little to one side, which gives the figure a more contemplative, withdrawn air. Evidently the bronzes were cast from a study made directly from life, whereas the marble has been elaborated and 'interpreted'. A similar relationship exists between the bronze and marble busts of the Duchesse de Choiseul made at more or less the same period, or between the bronze and marble busts of Miss Eve Fairfax. The actual carving of the marble must have been carried out largely, if not entirely, by an assistant working under his supervision.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.649-50, reproduced p.649

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