THE ARTIST

Snowden's Bronze Craft

In a tour de force of craftsmanship, Snowden has produced all her own bronzes in the foundry. To date, the Geological Coreium is the most extensive body of bronze to be cast in the latter half of the 20th century and at the millennium. Indeed, every aspect of bronze which forms her collection, has been exquisitely hand created utilizing Snowden’s resources as a master metallurgist. Classic granulation, extrusion, centrifugal and gravity pour protocols are among the celebrated techniques that Snowden wields to produce her unique and complex casts. 

Thoughts on the Fournier Patina and Light

“Discussing my passion for creating the lustrous surfaces of the Fournier Patina, I’ll just say that all of my work interacts with visible light. Moreover, I tend to think of my work as embodying curving light formations. Examples of this can be seen in my Lightspire and the Helix X and Y. Placing your hands on these works, you can feel their rising curvatures. All my bronzes are radiant light sculptures.” For Snowden, the Fournier Patina celebrates the interaction of light upon sculpture’s myriad planes. In Snowden’s estimate, the Patina plays with visible light and creates subcernal rainbows that promote a kind of optical liquidity. As Snowden comments, “My sculpture is a moving, living, breathing art and the patina breathes a kind of life in and out of my forms. Often the Patina reminds me of a natural Tahitian platinum pearl that’s been brought up from the deep sea. Over time, the patina improves with a deep buttered surface. Like certain fine wine, the chemistry of the Patina improves with time.”

Steps of the Fournier Patina

“I love the patina because it is sensuous. It has a feeling of surface like no other. I hand rub the metal to the point where there is no oxidation left on the outer skin, where the raw metal glows like a mirror. There are no machine tools that can really do this adequately, it’s all by hand - my skin and jeweler’s rouge cloths.” Preparing the metal is one of Snowden’s first steps. Applying Rodin’s proprietary mineral bath is another.  A next step involves scientific heating of the sculpture. Another step involves the art of applying open torches onto the work. Another advanced step requires multiple hours of hand burnishing the metal to an exquisite glow. Then comes Snowden’s final glazing methods which incorporate advanced double rubbing techniques with Snowden’s proprietary wax and her rich glazing compound.

The Unique Character of the Fournier Patina

Yet each example of the Fournier Patina is unique to each sculpture. As Snowden comments “Each patina for each of my bronzes is an individual. The Fournier is not a paint or application so much as it is a bloom. The color and pattern of the patina is influenced by the unique bronze wall thickness of each cast. The dimensional thickness of the wall uniquely translates the heat and mineral profile of the metal. Yes, it’s a surface patina whose color and flare are influenced by the ore content of the proprietary bronze that I pour. It’s an exciting process where the minerals and ores in the metal sweat out under high heats in a reaction with surface minerals. The pores of the metal open up under heavy duty foundry torching and sprayed liquid boils on the surface; the surface leaches back into the interior and brings those precious substrates up. When I’m laboring on a patina, I often think that bronze alloy is an aqueous medium; something that breathes through its skin, in and out. Let me just say that each sculpture uniquely interacts with the patina process.” 

History of the Fournier Patina

Knowledge of Snowden’s unique Patina, known as the Fournier Patina, was transferred from Rodin’s Paris studios when Eberhard emigrated to the United States. Indeed, Eberhard communicated the Patina to G.H. Snowden, who in turn, taught his daughter. It is widely known that Rodin used the services of professional founders including Alexis Rudier who famously cast Rodin’s Thinker in 1904.[1]According to M.L. Snowden, “It was always my understanding that Fournier worked alongside Eberhard where they were versed in patinas, casting, and marble carving. It was said Fournier came with Eberhard from the locale of  Verizon du Cher. Their services had been lent to Rodin’s Paris studios by Rodin’s principal marble carver, Victor Peter; that master who had carved out Rodin’s La Pensee΄.”[2]  According to legend, Georges Fournier entered into Rodin’s studio at the Depot des Marbres, since Rodin invited experts to come and touch up the surfaces of certain works that were slated for exhibition. As Snowden further comments, “Fournier’s unique patina remains extremely costly to this day, and was probably used only in exquisite circumstances on limited passages to add luster to Rodin’s bronzes. The Fournier Patina today is unlike many of Rodin’s matte waxed patinas. According to my father, Rodin’s patinas were preferentially based on soft acid compounds that incorporated human urine.” Snowden’s Fournier is based on an alternative technique that involves smelting precious ores that react on the interior and exterior of Snowden’s proprietary bronze amalgam.

 

 

[1] Ibid. Busco. Rodin and His Contemporaries.

[2] Ibid. Snowden archive interview; Musee D’Orsay Catalogue. “La Pensee”; Works alphabetical credits index.; 

A Word on Wax

The destruction of the testamentary record in France in World War I and II adds importance to Snowden’s willingness to credit the sources of her craft. Historians laud Snowden for giving credit to artisans who traditionally remain obscure in the foundering process. Yet the inventors of a range of formulas remain anonymous in the closely guarded world of certain French foundries. A particularly important development coming from Rodin’s atelier into Snowden’s hands was the recipe for a special foundry wax called Cire de Memoire. The capacities of Rodin’s original wax that contained hints of ether, allowed the wax to bend and fall back into its original shape without shattering in the manner of standard brittle foundry wax. Snowden updated the wax, inventing a new technique of incorporating malleable plastic in to the formula; a step which proved invaluable in casting the sculptor’s complex Rodin Prize winning work, Cataclasis Study. Indeed, the wax permitted Snowden to lift the delicately undercut wax whole from its mold. Today, Snowden extensively uses her re-invention of Cire de Memoire in her bronze casting process.[1]

 

 

[1] Ibid. Hagel. Great Golden Angels, “Into the Foundry”

Snowden inspects the condition of a mounted foundry wax, 2013

© 2018 M.L. SNOWDEN C/O THE M.L. SNOWDEN INSTITUTE

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