Agathon Leonard


Agathon Leonard

Agathon Leonard 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 Academie des 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 1880's ceramicists were first beginning to be considered "artists." The enthusiam for the craft was equally strong among the State manufacturers and individual artisans. The French National Manufacture at Sevres in particular adopted a consciously pro-artistic program to revive and celebrate the French tradition. Leonard's Jeu d'echarpe, first shown at the Exposition Universelle of 1900, was perhaps the best known Sevres production at the turn of the 20th century.

Leonard 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 figures were based on the then-popular scarf dances made famous by the American dancer Loie Fuller. In design they balanced the static forms of classicism with the sensuous movement of Art Nouveau. Offered for sale during the 1900 Exposition Universeele in Paris, they sold out and were re-issued several times during the nine 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. Issued in limited quantities and different sizes, these are the most collectable of Leonard's works.

Leonard also created a bronze known as the Femme Chave 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 lethal. This sculpture proved to be another great success.

Bronze casting of Leonard's work was carried out by the Susse Freres Editeurs foundry. In addition to bronze, he also produced works in marlbe, quartz and ivory, as well as Art Nouveau medallions, statuettes and pottery. The sculptor's works are held in many collectios, including those of the Art Institue of Chicago and the Victoria and Albert Museum. There is also a full set of the Jeu d'echarpe, once presented to Czar Nicholas II by the French government, at the Hermitage Museum. His bas-relief of St. Cecelia is 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 Silvered Figural Sculpture by Leonard
Leonard — S-14638
French Art Nouveau "Danseuse A L''Écharpe No. 12" gilt bronze sculptures by Agathon Léonard.
Leonard — YS-19618
French Art Nouveau Bisque Ceramic Sculpture titled "Danseuse Tambourin à Gauche" by Leonard and Sevres
Agathon Léonard — S-13307