Reader Request: Rodin

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A year ago, Auguste Rodin was one of several artists discussed in the "November Artists" post for "Feel Art Again," as he was born on November 12, 1840, and passed away on November 17, 1917. Reader Ginny requested a more extensive post featuring his sculpture, so today we'll take another look at the French sculptor.

1. Rodin's first full-scale work, "Age of Bronze," originally titled "Vanquished," caused quite a stir when it was submitted to the Salon in 1876. The bronze statue was so lifelike that Rodin was accused of having cast it from the living model. Eventually, Rodin was exonerated, and the State purchased the statue.

Balzac.jpg 2. An even greater stir arose over Rodin's 1898 "Monument to Balzac." The monument was supposed to have been completed in 18 months, but because Rodin took many years, the Societe des Gens de Lettres, who had commissioned the work, sued Rodin. Rodin was required to return his 10,000 francs advance in exchange for no time limit. When it was finally completed, though, the society rejected the work, declaring it "an unfinished grotesque botch." While Rodin considered the statue to be one of his greatest works, it was called "incomprehensible, if not ridiculous" and parodied in the press. A manifesto in defense of Rodin was signed by his supporters, among them Claude Monet and Claude Debussy.

BrokenNose.jpg 3. Rodin created a bust of a "neighborhood handyman named Bibi" that was as realistic as possible, even including the man's broken nose. He named the statue "The Man with the Broken Nose." Unfortunately, "the cold conditions of Rodin's studio caused the back of the head to freeze and break off." From then on, the bust was titled "The Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose."

Thinker.jpg 4. Explaining one of his most famous statues, "The Thinker," Rodin wrote: "What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes."

GatesOfHell.jpg 5. In 1880, Rodin was commissioned to design a doorway for the Museum of Decorative Arts. Rodin spent the rest of his life working on the doorway, called "Gates of Hell" after Dante Alighieri's Inferno, but he never finished it. In the 1920s, the 21-foot-high "Gates of Hell," containing nearly 180 figures, was finally installed in its incomplete state.

For larger versions of the artwork, click on the images themselves.

Fans should check out the the Rodin galleries from MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Art Renewal Center; the Musée Rodin; and the video "Auguste Rodin: The Genius, The Artist, The Romantic."

"Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com with artist suggestions, with details of current exhibitions, or for sources or further reading.

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November 20, 2008 - 5:30pm
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