Paris is one of the museum capitals of the world. From the famous Musée du Louvre to the quirky Centre Pompidou, there is no lack of great art to enjoy. But there are also smaller museums that are less well known. One of these, tucked away in the lesser-frequented 15th arrondissement of Paris, is the charming Musée Bourdelle.
The sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) moved into the bohemian neighborhood of Montparnasse in 1885. His workshop (atelier) at this address, as well as his apartment, can still be seen in their original state as part of the museum tour. His preserved studio is an excellent example of Parisian artist workshops of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum itself was first opened in 1949, only 20 years after the artist’s death. The street was also renamed from impasse du Maine to rue Antoine Bourdelle. It contains 500 works of marble, plaster, and bronze statues, as well as paintings, sketches, pastels, and frescos. Visitors can also view Bourdelle’s own personal collection of works by Eugène Carrière, Eugène Delacroix, Auguste Rodin, and other famous artists of his era.
Antoine Bourdelle entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1884 and worked under Alexandre Falguière while there. He was hired by Auguste Rodin in 1893 to work as a sculptor’s assistant (practicien). Bourdelle would later become a mentor to both Alberto Giacometti and Henri Matisse. The museum’s collection is situated in a chronological procession so that the visitor can more easily see how the artist’s style evolved over time. The unique characteristics of his sculptures fall somewhere between art deco and art nouveau and include several pieces inspired by classical Greek mythology and motifs: Pénélope (the wife of Odysseus), Héraklès tue les oiseaux du lac Stymphale (Heracles the Archer), and La mort du dernier centaure (The Dying Centaur). Bourdelle was also very drawn to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, and he created roughly 40 sculptures of the famous German composer.
The studio is still arranged as it was during Bourdelle’s lifetime and includes both medieval architecture and a set of samurai armor. The high ceilings show off the open space and the windows illuminate the room with that bright Parisian light. The rooms where most of his artwork can be admired offset the bold lines and shapes of his sculptures with earthy colors and simple materials such as wood and granite. The museum also houses tranquil gardens filled with several bronze casts of his more famous statues.
As the Musée Bourdelle is one of the 14 City of Paris Museums (Paris Musées), admission to the permanent collection is always free. Admission to the special exhibitions is €8, the reduced price is €6, and the museum is free for those under 18. It is open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm, except for Mondays and certain public holidays. The closest metro stations are Falguière (line 12) and Montparnasse-Bienvenüe (lines 4, 6, 12, and 13).