Friday, 8 August 2014

The bust of Carl Linnaeus, in the words of artist Lucie Geffré

One of the focal points of the Right Bank botanic gardens, as featured in the previous blog item, is the bronze bust of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). The Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist is regarded as the father of modern taxonomy and one of the initiators of modern ecology.

To get the full story about the bust, I got in touch with Lucie Geffré, the talented Bordeaux-born, Madrid-based artist who was commissioned to produce the piece. Over to you, Lucie!

How did the commission for the bust of Carl Linnaeus come about?


In 2007, when my mother was working in the Botanical Garden archives, she pointed out to me that the Linnaean Society of Bordeaux was preparing a series of events to commemorate the tercentenary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus. Thanks to her and a painter friend of ours, Catherine Bouyx, I was put in touch with the Linnaean Society who immediately showed interest in the project of a bronze bust.

Were you previously familiar with the work of Linnaeus?


Not really. It was interesting for me to discover it all.

Lucie Geffré modelling the bust in clay.
How did you research and fine-tune the subject?

I read about Linnaeus and looked for all the images that could be found to know what he looked like. There are some old paintings and sculptures that represent him, but even with that information you can’t really know exactly what his features were like. So that allowed me a margin of freedom of interpretation.

The clay model upon
completion
How did the sculpture take shape? What techniques did you use?

First I did a metal armature strong enough to support quite a large amount of clay. Then I modelled the bust in clay: that was the longest part of the process. After that, I built up a silicone and resin mould that covered the clay bust. Once finished and removed, that mould was used in the foundry for the lost wax bronze casting.

What partners were involved in creating the final bust?

The Linnaean Society of Bordeaux, especially Georges Pasquier who was very helpful in every step, the Cyclopes foundry in Libourne (now in Mérignac) who did the lost wax casting as well as the patina, and the project was financed by the Linnaean Society of Bordeaux, Bordeaux City Hall, the Swedish Embassy and IKEA.

The artist and foundry have left their mark on the bust!
How was the bust unveiled? Was a ceremony held to mark the event?

In October 2007 the ‘Esplanade Linné’ was inaugurated and the bust unveiled by the Swedish Ambassador to France.

Can you describe how it now feels to have one of your works on permanent display in your home city?

I feel really lucky I was given the chance to carry out the project and it’s wonderful having the bust there, especially as the Botanical Garden is such an interesting place.


When you’re back in Bordeaux, do you make a point of visiting the Botanical Gardens?

I go now and then and the bust actually looks quite different each time as the patina evolves over the years.

Finally, what are your current projects?

Nowadays I paint more than I sculpt and I’m preparing two exhibitions of my paintings in Madrid: a group show in a gallery and a solo show in the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

Thanks Lucie!
 
Work-in-progress photos kindly provided by Lucie Geffré.
Thank you to Lesley Graham for the message which indirectly resulted in this interview taking shape!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I know of this artist through Bordeaux friends and much admire her work -- so interesting to read the interview, find out a bit about the process of sculpting a bronze bust, and be inspired to finally get across the river to "the other" Botanic Garden next visit to your city.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! The Right Bank is definitely worth visiting, not just the Botanic Gardens but the whole neighbourhood around La Benauge and the "Maison Cantonale"... one of the walking tours I've produced focuses on that part of the city so next time you're in Bordeaux you know what to do!... :-)

      As for Lucie Geffré, she is a genuinely talented artist and her work is fantastic - I'm a fan!

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