The story of Rodin's 'The Kiss' in Lewes has hit the national press again with the discovery of a new photo that shows, for the first time, the wrapped statue, sitting at the end of the Assembly Room which is full of troops having Xmas dinner before shipping out to France and, in most cases, to certain death.
In a nine-year project, I uncovered the story of how 'The Kiss 'commissioned around 1900 by two gay guys – E.P. Warren and John Marshall - came to be in Lewes and what happened during its 30-year sojourn in the town. I then persuaded the Tate Gallery to lend it to me in 1999 for a five-month long exhibition, in the company of other Rodin works borrowed from the V&A and the Musee Rodin in Paris.
You can read the fuller story in this previous post: JM ARCHIVE: RODIN IN LEWES written on the occasion of the Tate lending 'The Kiss' to the new Turner Gallery in Margate.
Was contacted recently by the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia who are staging a major exhibition opening this Nov 5th and running to 5th Feb 2017 entitled 'Nude: Art from the Tate collection' in Sydney. It features the Lewes Kiss - the first time it has ever left Britain.
As to how and why 'The Kiss' was lent to Lewes, here's an extract from catalog essay:
'For reasons that again are not known, Warren then offered to lend it to Lewes Town Council. It was to be placed in the Town Hall, at the South End of the Assembly Room. Negotiations began in January and were concluded by May 1914; on 4 August war was declared. The Kiss was moved from Lewes House to the Town Hall by trolley, using three men and four horses, and was ' installed in the Assembly Room on 2 December 1914.
The same week, the Assembly Room was opened as a reading, writing and recreation room for troops billeted in the town. Regular boxing matches were staged in the same room, where, according to the recollections of one resident (recorded by the Borough librarian), the sculpture was 'used as a vantage point from which to obtain a better view of the boxing ... at one match, the audience pressed so closely round the statue that you could see the sweat running down the woman's back.'
Then, early in 1915, The Kiss was suddenly wrapped in canvas and marked off with a guard rail. Whatever the cause of the cover-up, it was not written about in either the Council minutes or the press of the day. Press reports from 1929 refer to 'susceptibilities being offended' and to the undraped figures of The Kiss 'as offending the proprieties'. The search for more evidence will no doubt continue, but the upshot was that the Town Council returned the statue, saying only that the room did 'not lend itself to such a noble piece of statuary.' On 26 February 1917, The Kiss was once more taken to the stable block where it was to remain for a further sixteen years.'