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Museum: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Paulin, Paul
(1851-1937)
Collection: European Collection
Specialty: Sculpture
View Artwork
Born in Chamaliers, France on July 13, 1852, Paul Paulin took the sensible
route into adulthood and became a prominent dentist in Paris. However, his
passion for art led him first to pursue the acquaintance of prominent
artists and collectors, and eventually to pursue a secondary career as a
sculptor, dedicating himself primarily to modeling and casting bronze
portrait busts of his many artistic friends, including the great Rodin.

Though he was friendly with Rodin, Paulin was far closer to the group of
artists known as the Impressionists, with whom he regularly socialized. He
created portrait busts of Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and, most notably, two
busts of his closest friend among them, Edgar Degas. As one scholar
indicates, Degas had "a convivial, almost domestic relationship with the
amateur modeler Paul Paulin." In the later years of Degas's life, when his
intransigence over the Dreyfus affair drove many of his former companions
and colleagues away, Paulin remained a staunch friend, extending regular
dinner invitations and exchanging a lively correspondence. He was even one
of the rare associates allowed to witness Degas's own efforts at
sculpting. As Degas biographer Richard Kendall relates, "Letters from
Degas to Paulin over more than two decades suggest the warmth of both
their practical and social contact, not least in a specific invitation to
the sculptor to visit Degas in his studio where the evidence of his own
modeling was continually on view." Though Degas produced numerous small
sculptures and maquettes in wax, clay, and plasticine, only one, a wax
piece augmented by real accessories including a tutu, ballet shoes, and a
horsehair wig called The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, was ever
exhibited. Shown at the 6^th Impressionist exhibition in 1881, it was
attacked viciously by the critics for its realism. Degas never exhibited
any of his sculptures again, but after his death, more than 150 small
pieces were found in his studio. His heirs decided to have them cast, a
somewhat controversial decision: Paulin wrote to another Degas friend,
Paul Lafond, in May 1918, "Would Degas be pleased with all this? I have my
doubts. But he should have made a timely will."

In the meantime, Paulin had been doing well with his own efforts. While
retaining his profession as a dentist, he nonetheless found success with
his portrait busts as well, exhibiting at the Salon des artists Francis
from 1882 to 1889 and starting at the Salon des Beaux-Arts in 1901.
Ironically, despite the portraits modeled from life of the great French
artists of his time, Paulin's single most famous sculpture during his own
lifetime was one of Queen Victoria, cast in 1901.

Art has never owed a greater debt to dentistry. Thanks to his ability to
support himself independent of patronage, when Paulin died in 1937, he
left behind a wealth of indelible portraits of the great artists he had
personally known and loved. In 1983, a special exhibition of his work was
held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, the largest showing of his sculpture
ever held at a single location. Bronzes were gathered from museums and
private and corporate collections around the world to celebrate Paulin's
contribution to the history of art. His friends would have been pleased.

Everl Adair

Director of Research and Rare Collections

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