russian, working in france
Séraphin Soudbinine: From Rodin’s Assistant to Ceramic Artist The Russian sculptor and ceramic artist Séraphin Soudbinine (1867–1944) started his career working as an actor in Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theater in 1898. After moving to Paris in 1904 he decided to become a sculptor, studying first under Russian Leopold Sinaeff-Bernstein (1867–1944) and then under the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). Soudbinine became Rodin’s chief marble carver, notably working on The Hand of God (1916–1918) that is today in the collection of the Musée Rodin, Paris. At the same time, he was an independent sculptor, exhibiting his pieces in Paris starting in 1906. Between 1910 and 1913 he made sculptures of famous dancers associated with the Ballets Russes, principally ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Tamara Karsavina. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Soudbinine established himself permanently in Paris. He collaborated with the French lacquer artist Jean Dunand, carving low reliefs for screens. While visiting New York and seeing the Chinese porcelain collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he was inspired to work in clay. Drawing on Russian folk art as well as Chinese porcelain, he devised ceramics in a highly stylized Art Deco taste. These often incorporated bold geometric forms and stylized animals. Several examples of his ceramics and his sculpture were collected by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, founder of the Legion of Honor, and are exhibited here for the first time in many years in conjunction with the centenary of the death of Rodin.