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Michigan Sculpture Park Acquires 3 Works

February 10, 2005

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ Three significant works by Degas, Rodin and Rodin’s one-time mentor have been added to the growing, permanent collection of contemporary sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

The sculptures include a 24-inch bronze cast of Rodin’s ``The Kiss,″ a 19-inch bronze cast of ``Dancer Looking at the Sole of Her Right Foot″ by Degas and a 24.5-inch bronze cast of ``Autumn Lovers″ by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, who taught Rodin.

Joe Becherer, curator of sculpture at Meijer Gardens, described the Rodin figure as ``probably, along with ‘The Thinker,’ one of the more iconic works in his oeuvre.″

All three were obtained from private collections with documentation back to their original owners, he said. None had ever been publicly displayed until Wednesday.

Meijer Gardens officials declined to disclose the cost or value of the works.

The timing of the announcement _ five days before Valentine’s Day _ was no accident. Each sculpture is a distinct interpretation of the relationship between art and sexuality.

``Autumn Lovers″ dates to 1857, making it the oldest sculpture among the 170 now at the 125-acre park. It romantically depicts, in fine detail, a mythological couple with a bountiful harvest.

Together with the simpler ``The Kiss,″ created in 1880, they mark the foundation of modern sculpture, Becherer said. The two figures, along with Degas’ ``Dancer,″ will be displayed in the Victorian Garden conservatory, a greenhouse designed to transport visitors to the Victorian era of the 19th century.

``One of the wonderful things about having these two works, especially across from one another, is not only do you have the opportunity to look at the differences between master and teacher,″ he said, ``but you have the opportunity to look at the great differences that occurred in the late 19th century between a much more romantic, much more detailed approach to art and something that was still emotional.

``But the texture is extraordinarily different and the meaning, perhaps, is even a little bit more profound.″

Perhaps known more for his impressionist paintings, Degas also was an acclaimed sculptor, and ``Dancer″ is one of his most important works, Becherer said. His only sculpture that may be better known is ``Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen.″

Degas sculpted 73 figures but only one was shown during his lifetime. The others were cast after his death in 1917, by his heirs. Only about 20 original casts of ``Dancer″ were made.

Although it already owned a cast of Rodin’s ``Eve,″ Meijer Gardens did not previously have any works by Degas or Carrier-Belleuse.

A foundation established by retailer Fred Meijer and his wife, Lena, created Meijer Gardens 10 years ago. The 30-acre outdoor sculpture park was dedicated in May 2002.

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On the Net:

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park: http://www.meijergardens.org/

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