Clodion (Claude Michel)

Dates1738 - 1814
BornNancy, France
DiedParis, France

The son-in-law of sculptor Augustin Pajou, Clodion trained in Paris in the workshops of his uncle and Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, the most successful sculptor of the time. Upon winning the Prix de Rome, he moved to Italy, sharing a studio with Jean-Antoine Houdon and studying antique, Renaissance, and Baroque sculpture. A highly skillful modeler of clay, Clodion was intensely affected by the new interest in collecting terracottas. While terracotta had been traditionally used to make sketches for larger works in more permanent and expensive materials, terracotta sculptures could now be seen as independent works of art revealing the artist's inspiration and touch. Clodion's quickly executed yet detailed terracottas were, as his earliest biographer records, "bought by amateurs even before they were finished." Among his clients, Catherine II of Russia unsuccessfully attempted to bring him to her court. In 1771 Clodion returned to Paris, where he continued to produce mostly in terracotta. He also worked with his brothers in other media, decorating objects such as candelabra, clocks, and vases. Drawing primarily from pagan antiquity, he created light-hearted terracotta sculptures that epitomized the Rococo style. Late in his life, when Neoclassial works were more popular, Clodion adjusted his style and worked on major public monuments in Paris.