Bruno concentrates on the information provided by his hands.
During a guided tactile visit, Delphine pampers the sculpture of The Child Prodigy after having touched it.
Louis, Garriné and Bruno during a tour of the museum.
Louis tries to imitate the posture of the sculpture he has just touched
While Elisabeth plays with Louis the work of Eve, Bruno will listen to Louis' funny comments about the sculpture.
Each tactile visit begins and ends with a round table, where the students discuss their impressions and determine with Alexandre the sculpture to be made during the workshop session.
Bruno and Mathieu are very attentive to the animator's comments.
The group of blind people creating in the old chapel, where the workshop courses directed by Alexandre take place.
Annette sculpts what she has memorized with the help of her hands.
Annette proudly presents her work.
Bruno touches -very delicately- Annette's sculpture.
The peculiar tactile vision transmitted on some sculptures.
Corinne serves as a model for Elisabeth, while Louis tries to define the morphology of her face.
Elisabeth touches her nose to understand the volume
Elisabeth chooses to plaster a part of his face, the mouth. Since she cannot speak, she answers by making slight head movements.
Touching a sculpture for a visually impaired person is essential to appreciate all its richness, says Alexandre
Corinne observes the path of Yvan's hands over Eve's body.
Garriné tells Alexandre about the beauty of the body of L'âge d'airain.
Bruno is delighted by Camille Claudel's magnificent work entitled La vie maturée.
Corinne, Alexandre's assistant, guides Yvan to Eve
The bust of Rodin's father examined by Yvan's fingertips.
Touching a sculpture for a visually handicapped person is essential to appreciate all its richness.
The blind of the Rodin Museum
Twice a week, Alexandre François, sculptor and guide of the Rodin Museum, welcomes a group of visually impaired and blind people. After detaching rings, bracelets or any other sharp object that could damage the works, Annette, Chantal, Delphine, Bruno, Yvan and the others will be able to discover the smallest details of the bronze sculptures and comment on what their hands "see". Later, with their spirits full of images, the group will go to the old chapel to recreate with clay or plaster what they have memorized with the help of their fingers.
Every Monday and Wednesday, a small group - between 4 and 8 - of blind and visually impaired people come to the Musée Rodin in Paris, where they will be welcomed by Alexandre François, the animator in charge of the tactile visits. After studying art, Alexandre decides to propose a cycle of visits to the museum so that "those who have been denied the gift of sight will not be denied art and will learn to appreciate the beauty of sculptural works.
Delphine, on her knees, slightly arched and with her arms and head raised towards the sky, pampers the work of The Child Prodigy. When she doesn't understand something, she doesn't hesitate to recreate the character's posture to better soak up the sculpture she is studying. Dynamic and reserved, Delphine looks forward to the afternoons when she comes to the museum even though "at the beginning of the cycle I didn't understand anything. Today I learned to play, which has allowed me to get around better. Today, it's a good thing that I can't see developing a sense that the visionaries will never have.
Yvan, 25 years old, lost his sight while studying at the biochemistry faculty. A small error in the manipulation of some chemical components caused him the progressive deterioration of his vision until its total disappearance. "I had to learn to live in a very different way and give up some of my passions, such as photography. Today, although Yvan lives 150 kilometers from Paris, he attends Alexandre's course to feel again the sensation of sight through his hands.
This group of visually impaired and blind people will learn about the busts of Rodin's father and Rose Beuret, the artist's sentimental companion, whom he represents with a dynamic air and a fine and sensual face at the age of twenty. Later, and from memory, he will capture Rose's image in the quarantine of his life. However, the most complex works require a step-by-step study. Thus, once again guided by the animator of the course, Delphine will begin to explore the top of the sculpture to better understand the movement of the torso; then, her hands will descend along the arms, and then, placing one hand on one of the hips of the sculpture, she will run her other hand along the legs to know the position in which she is.
And... from theory to practice. In the second session, the students will meet in the museum's workshop. Dressed in robes so as not to get dirty, they will have to mold a bust with clay according to the information they acquired during their tactile visit. This activity will be very useful for them to relate to each other and lose the fear that their visual handicap produces. For Annette, companionship is fundamental, so she comments "I need a good harmony among my colleagues to work in good conditions and both Alexandre and the group provide me with everything I need".
Chantal kneads the clay, wetting it from time to time in order to work it better. "Today he will be a sitting man", she says confidently. The silhouette quickly takes shape and the proportions and volumes please Alexandre. "I've been taking part in these courses regularly for three years, because of my thirst for knowledge about Rodin and because the fact of creating something makes me feel autonomous.
The busts of Delphine, Yvan and Bruno are also very advanced, so the animator invites his students to comment on their different creations. Annette is not convinced of what she has achieved: "a mouth that is too wide, a thin and pointed nose, ears that are too big and a bulging skull". Delphine is surprised by the tortuous and disproportionate appearance of her small creation, despite having applied it to her work. Alexandre encourages her by telling her that this is her first session in the workshop, so she will have to be more patient before getting good results. Yvan has also made a bust with a completely smooth head and almost no relief, where the features of the nose, eyes and ears are fine and barely protruding. Yvan has also made a bust with a completely smooth head and almost no relief, where the features of the nose, eyes and ears are fine and barely protruding.
In the third session, the participants will have as their theme The Footprint. "To study the morphology of the bust and body without fear of getting lost," says Alexandre, "you have to use both hands. While one of them remains motionless on the skull, the other one will go around the bust to get an idea of the overall volume. For the body, we will put one hand on one shoulder, and with the other one we will discover the work and its position".
Corinne, Alexandre's assistant, will guide Annette to Balzac's bust. Through his hands, he appreciates the hardness of the expression on the bust and comments, "I think he is very angry; he has a rather large nose; and, undoubtedly, he represents an elderly man". Annette has a degeneration of the retina and can't see more than ten centimeters away; however, she keeps on using her eyes, so Alexandre -with much sensibility- rebukes her for not taking enough advantage of her hands.
A retinitis pigmentosa left Elisabeth totally blind. Together with Louis, who has been blind for more than 20 years, she has chosen Eve's work for her study. Alexandre invites you to use your hands as if they were a unit of measurement: "move the dimensions of the hand along the whole body of the sculpture, so that - when you make your works in the workshop - you will know the proportions to follow". Elisabeth's hands are small, so it will be difficult for her to go through Eve's whole body. However, Louis enjoys discovering shapes and volumes: the breasts, the hips and the slightly curved belly. On the other hand, Yvan studies the bust of Rodin's father. Without letting any emotion appear on his face, Yvan internalizes what his fingers are touching, while Alexandre suggests that he take his time to get to know the shape, contours and proportions of the nose, an essential element for the appreciation of the face.
Elisabeth, Yvan, Corinne and the others are now facing The Mature Age, a group of Camille Claudel. Alexandre underlines the kinship ties between Rodin and Camille before announcing the program. "First, you have to get to know the characters: Camille -the young begging woman-, Rodin -in the center- and his partner Rose -the dragon-. Secondly, you must pay attention to a character or a detail that you like and on which you will have to work", comments the animator.
"We will take the same reference points as for the realization of the busts and we will define the model aloud," says Corinne, Alexandre's assistant, who also lends herself to the game. The next stage will consist of making a model with small plaster bandages. Elisabeth chooses her mouth as the anatomical part of her face, while Bruno signs up for the construction of a mask. Smeared with moisturizing cream to avoid tightening the skin, they discover the physical sensations on contact with the plaster: for Elisabeth, it is cold and uncomfortable; for Bruno, it is relaxing. He comments, "When Alexandre and Corinne applied the plaster bandages to my face, I had the impression of being in a spa, a real treat". At the end of the cycle, the participants will proudly baptize their creations before putting them in shoe boxes for easy transportation home.
In Spain, more and more museums are opening their doors to these people through tactile visits that include various services adapted to each need. Today it is already possible for a blind person to come out of his loneliness and have access to art; however, the demands are still very low.