The first question we ask ourselves is: is it even possible? On the one hand there is the static material, and on the other hand the fleeting impression. The impression that led to a loose and sketch-like style of painting and drawing. But in sculpture? Can materials such as stone, wood and bronze express movement and ephemerality? The show “en passant” at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt attempts to answer this question.
Owing to the coronavirus, we procured our timeslot tickets online, and were allowed to walk directly into the “hallowed halls” with our small group of friends without the usual queue. The primary artist is Edgar Degas, around whom other masters in their field give the answer: yes, solid material and an airy, ephemeral impression can be combined. Degas’ sculpture of a 14-year-old dancer – an outrage at the end of the 19th century – looks rather harmless today. And in its box made of safety glass, as if it wants to protect itself from the scandalous virus of the 21st century. In 1881, this sculpture established the generic term “impressionist sculptural work.” It was probably not really formative in terms of an impressionistic appearance. This is where the rather sketch-like sculptures come into play: by Edgar Degas, of course, but also by Rembrandt Bugatti, Giovanni Segantini, Medardo Rosso, Leonardo Bistolfi or Auguste Rodin. And from Camille Claudel! But why does she appear just on the margins? Was she the only woman among the Impressionist sculptors?
The show benefited enormously from its magnificent setting amidst the Impressionist painters’ masterful works from the Städel’s holdings.
Watch an official video about the exhibit here: