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Musicologist Leo Schrade, author of Beethoven in France, the authoritative book on the Beethoven cult in France in the 19th and early 20th centuries

The French idea of Beethoven embodies the unity of a cultural phenomenon as an innate intensity; for it rises from the well of life whose soundings we often lose. And then this organic concept manifests itself in Beethoven, continually uniting the idea of his music to the forces of life. Here is the inner reason why in France men from all camps come to share in the idea of Beethoven.1

1 Leo Schrade, Beethoven in France (New Haven: Yale UP, 1942), p. X.

Critic Adolphe Boschot on the profusion of Beethoven portraits in French salons at the turn of the century

Beethoven excites every year the talent of our painters. In every salon they exhibit for us several canvases showing the author of the nine symphonies. For this has now become the fashion. Once upon a time they manufactured Bonapartes or the 'Temptations of St. Anthony', now they manufacture Beethoven (...) The public imagines Beethoven, this face forever consecrate, if not with exactness, at least with tyrannous precision.1

1 Adolphe Boschot, Carnets d'art (Paris, 1911), p. 7f. Quoted and translated in Leo Schrade, Beethoven in France (New Haven: Yale UP, 1942), p. 177.

Neurologist Hippolyte Bernheim, student of Jean-Martin Charcot (who was at one time the teacher of Sigmund Freud), explores the pathology of imagination (1887)

The hallucinatory image may be as distinct, as bright and as active to the [human] subject as reality itself… He sees it as he conceives it, as he interprets it… It is a psychical cerebral image and not a physical one. It does not pass through the apparatus of vision, has no objective reality, follows no optical laws, but solely obeys the caprices of the imagination.1

1 Hippolyte Bernheim, Suggestive Therapeutics: a Treaties on the Nature and Uses of Hypnotism, trans. C. Herter (New York, 1887), pp. 103-104. Quoted after Deborah Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 86.

Bourdelle on Beethoven

All the arts overlap with one another and interpenetrate. Recently, as I listened to a great trio by Beethoven, it seemed to me for the first time that instead of seeing I was hearing sculpture.1

1 Emile Antoine Bourdelle, lecture notes (20 January 1910), excepted in Angelica Zander Rudenstine, et al., Modern Painting, Drawing, & Sculpture Collected by Emily and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., vol. IV (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1988), p. 587.

Bourdelle's wife, Stephanie Van Parys, describing how her husband's imagination was spurred by his first encounter with a bust of Beethoven (1931)

The striking profundity of that extraordinary head overwhelmed him, made an indelible impression on him, probably in part because he saw in it a surprising resemblance to his own. He thought he was seeing himself, and it was perhaps this fact, in the first instance, that attracted him.1

1 Sandor Kémeri, Visage de Bourdelle (Paris, 1931), p. 33. Excepted in Angelica Zander Rudenstine, et al., Modern Painting, Drawing, & Sculpture Collected by Emily and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., vol. IV (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1988), p. 587.

Bourdelle on his artistic objectives

It is my task to construct my own silent orchestra in which the sounds are expressed in terms of planes and of light.1

1 Emile Antoine Bourdelle, "Serai-je un jour createur d'un Beethoven?" (January 1903), excerpted in Angelica Zander Rudenstine, et al., Modern Painting, Drawing, & Sculpture Collected by Emily and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., vol. IV (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1988), p. 588.

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Emile-Antoine Bourdelle - Mask of Beethoven (1905) Emile-Antoine Bourdelle - Mask of Beethoven (1905) Bronze with brown patina, partially gilded, hollow make form (sand cast). Private Collection

Statements from Bourdelle and his contemporaries situate this sculpture in the context of a national obsession with Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)— France's "Beethoven cult." However, there is also evidence that Bourdelle fixated on Beethoven's image for personal reasons.