There [Medardo Rosso] was, a guest in a wealthy home because he was supposed to do the portrait of the little boy. He saw the child daily in the course of living with the family. Try as he might, he couldn't produce a thing. He was overstaying his welcome, he was beside himself. One evening there was a reception, the drawing room was full of elegant guests. Suddenly a curtain was drawn aside a few inches, the little boy peered in, his lips parted in amazement, and he was gone. Triggered by this snapshot vision, Rosso rushed to his room, worked through the night and into the next day until he had brought the head [Ecce Puer] to completion.1
1 Margaret Scolari Barr (based on her interview with Tilde Rosso, the artist's daughter-in-law, in August 1960), Medardo Rosso (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1963), pp. 58-59.
The real visual truth of anything that meets our eye in nature can only strike us with full force in that short moment when vision breaks upon us, as it were, as a surprise—that is to say, before our intellect, our knowledge of the material form of objects, has had time to come in to play and to counteract and destroy that first impression. 1
1 Medardo Rosso, "Impressionism in Sculpture, An Explanation," trans. Barbara Fischer in Dieter Schwarz, ed., Medardo Rosso (Dusseldorf: Richter Verlag, 2004), p. 128. First published in The Daily Mail, 17 October 1907.
Rosso's final sculpture, Ecce Puer (Behold the Child), is the result of a commission from the British industrialist Emile Mond for a portrait of his son, Alfred William. At first paralyzed by the project, Rosso eventually cast multiple versions of Ecce Puer in various media. Rosso's creative approach to casting—and the impressionistic effects he thereby achieved—had a powerful effect on Rodin and sculptors of successive generations, including Alberto Giacometti and George Segal.
When I do a portrait, I cannot limit it to the lines of the head since this head belongs to a body; it is in an environment that has an influence on it, it makes part of a whole I cannot suppress.1
1 Untitled statement ("It should be in space…"), trans. Barbara Fischer in Dieter Schwarz, ed., Medardo Rosso (Dusseldorf: Richter Verlag, 2004), p. 126. First published in Edmond Claris, De l'impressionisme en sculpture (Paris: Editions de "La Nouvelle Revue," 1902).