Agathon Léonard

1841- 1923

Agathon Léonard was the pseudonym of Van Weydveldt, a sculptor born in Lille in 1841. As a young man he studied under De La Planche at the School of Fine Arts in Lille. Soon he was elected to the Académie de Beaux-Arts in Lille. Additionally, he was a member of the Salon des Artistes Francais from 1887. He achieved some renown at the annual Expositions Universelles, garnering silver, in 1889, and gold, in 1900. That same year he was elected a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

In the late 1880s ceramicists were first beginning to be considered “artists”. The enthusiasm for the craft was equally strong among the State manufacturers and individual artisans. The French National Manufacture at Sèvres in particular adopted a consciously pro-artistic program to revive and celebrate the French tradition. Léonard’s Jeu l’écharpe, first shown at the Exposition Universelle of 1900, was perhaps the best known Sèvres production at the turn of the century.

Léonard had designed the set of fifteen unglazed figures in 1898. It consisted of fourteen female figures dancing and playing music around a central female figure, and three bases of different heights. The centerpiece was hugely successful and subsequently produced in various sizes. The figures were based on the then-popular scarf dances made famous by the American dancer, Loïe Fuller. In design they balanced the static forms of classicism with the sensuous movement of the new art. Offered for sale during the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, they sold out and were re-issued several times during the 9 months of the fair. In fact, the set so captured the spirit of movement that Leonard contracted with Parisian foundry Susse Freres to produce editions of the Scarf Dancers in bronze. Produced in limited quantities and different sizes, these are the most collectable of Leonard's works.

Leonard also created a bronze known as the Femme Chauve Souris, or Bat Woman, eschewing the idealized view of women found in his scarf dancer series. With Bat Woman Leonard explored the darker side of Art Nouveau dealing with women as anthropomorphic, erotic, and fatal. This sculpture proved to be another great success.

Bronze casting of Léonard's work was carried out by the Susse Frères Editeurs foundry. Besides bronze, he also produced works in marble, quartz and ivory. He also produced Art Nouveau medallions, statuettes and pottery. The sculptor’s works are held in many collections, including that of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In addition, there is a full set of the Jeu l’écarpe, once presented to Nicholas II by the French government, at the Hermitage Museum. His bas-relief of St. Cecilia is to be found in the Abbeville Museum and the Nantes Museum houses a bust titled The Plunderer of Shipwrecks.


Related items:

 
French Art Nouveau Bisque Ceramic Sculpture by Leonard and Sevres titled "Danseuse Tambourin à Droite"
Agathon Léonard — S-13308
French Art Nouveau Bisque Ceramic Sculpture titled "Danseuse Tambourin à Gauche" by Leonard and Sevres
Agathon Léonard — S-13307
Art Nouveau Bisque Ceramic Sculpture by Agathon Leonard titled "Danseuse au Cothurne"
Léonard — S-14559

 

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