November 17, 2017–April 22, 2018
Tell me more.
Cybele's muscular, twisting body is so full of motion. If you look around the back, you will see hair left from the head that Rodin chose to remove before casting.
This work really shows the influence of Michelangelo on Rodin. In 1876, Rodin traveled to Italy to study Michelangelo’s work.
Did Rodin do any hand sculpting work - or only chisel?
He did both actually—hand molding for the clay models used to create his bronze sculptures and chisel for his marble sculptures.
His wife said this of Rodin's process: "his method was unlike that of any other sculptor I have had the opportunity of watching. He first made flat surfaces in the rough lump, and then added little pellets of clay which he rolled between his fingers while he talked. He worked by adding to the lump instead of subtracting from it. As soon as we left he smoothed it all down and next day added more. I scarcely ever saw him with a tool in his hand."
Amazing, thank you!
The exhibit states there are a few casts of the Gates of Hell. Where are they?
Though the original commission fell through, a mold of The Gates of Hell has been pieced together from Rodin's designs. There are doors cast from the mold at the Musée Rodin in Paris as well at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and at locations in Stanford, Zurich, Seoul, Mexico City, and Tokyo.
What was Rodin's process for the Balzac commission?
Balzac had died 40 years before Rodin received the commission for the monument. In order to better understand the writer's physical appearance, Rodin went to Balzac’s hometown near Tours and found someone that resembled Balzac to model for him. He produced over 50 clay studies that later were cast in bronze and sold as independent artworks. All of the Balzac works you see here were studies for the final monument.
Are these figures the same? Were they made using the machine invented by Rodin?
Yes, in the 19th century it was very common for sculptors to produce multiples of their work at different scales. These were never numbered or limited in production!
Rodin did not invent the reduction machine himself, but he and his studio assistants definitely made use of it!
Rodin used the Collas machinem which was similar to an earlier reduction machine made by the Englishman Benjamin Cheverton in 1828 (patented 1844).
Please tell me more about this work.
This nude version of Pierre de Wiessant of the Burghers of Calais group showcases Rodin's emphasis on gesture and emotion in both bodies and faces.
It also represents an important step in his process. He created these nude versions of the Burghers and then draped fabric over them to create the models for the final versions. He wanted to be sure that it was clear that there was a body underneath the drapery.
You can see the final versions nearby!
How come this Rodin statue has a blue/teal hue to it? All the other bronze statues have that familiar black/copper undertone. Is it a different material? Also, why is bronze black?
Each of Rodin's sculptures is treated with a combination of chemicals whose purpose is to change the surface color and finish, or patina, of the bronze cast. During his life, Rodin was very specific about the patina of his works with colors ranging from dark, almost black, to green, to even gold!
Dark brown patinas were achieved by applying potassium sulfides to the surface. Green is a natural result of oxidation of the copper in bronze but can also be achieved by adding chlorides to the surface.
You'll notice a sculpture that looks almost like gold in this show, which is much closer to the natural color of bronze. It is the bust of a woman called "Suzon."
Yeah Suzon looks like an Olympic medal. Every one else looks like they were hewn out of a mountainside. Thank you for your help!
How did the reduction process work? Was it a mechanical process using some sort of 3D pantograph or did the workshop just copy a large work smaller?
It was a manual process with some mechanical assistance. To reduce works, Rodin and his assistants used a Collas Machine.
The Collas Machine basically allowed the person sculpting a reduced work to keep that work and the original sculpture at the exact same angle. Needles and a sharp cutting instrument attached to the machine would allow the sculptor to transfer the profile of one sculpture to the other.
Tell me more.
Rodin enjoyed experimenting with depictions of lesbian intercourse and affection but he had to take precaution with the names, which transformed them into allegories and made them more socially acceptable.
Is it original or just an imitation?
The concept of "original" vs. "copy" can get confusing around mold-made works and there are some special circumstances surrounding Rodin's work. All of the bronzes in the Rodin exhibition were cast from Rodin's original molds making them works by Rodin himself despite the fact that most of them were cast after his death.
You'll notice that there are two dates on the label. The first, 1886 is when Rodin made the mold and the second, 1983, is when this version was cast.
Multiple casts could be created of an artist's work and still be considered original as long as they are from models crafted by the artist.
Upon his death, Rodin left his estate, including his molds, to the nation of France and they are now housed in the Musée Rodin. Collectors can commission new casts from these molds even today (so long as there are less than 12). The French government has determined that 12 casts are legally allowed to be made from each mold. There are even laws around how many can be in private collections and how many must be reserved for public museums.
Were Rodin and Baudelaire contemporaries? If so did they associate?
Yes, they were contemporaries. Rodin respected Baudelaire immensely. HIs influence can be seen in the sculpture "Damned Women." The title of this work was taken from Baudelaire's collection of erotic poems, "Flowers of Evil."
That's immediately what I thought of! thank you for your help.
You're welcome! Rodin illustrated an edition of Les Fleurs du Mal, and also sculpted a monument to Baudelaire. However, both of those projects were completed after the poet's death in 1867.
Fleurs du mal is a personal favorite of mine.
It was a very progressive work in its time! The idea that women could have sexual desire ran counter to prevailing ideas about gender. Even "Damned Women" was never exhibited during Rodin’s lifetime because it seemed too blatantly erotic for public sensibilities.
I can imagine. Baudelaire was deliberately provocative and it seems the work he inspired was no less so.
Absolutely! Their fearlessness seems to have served them both well, as they are now part of the artistic and literary canon.
:) thank you for all your help
Were Rodin and Balzac colleagues?
They never met in person, Balzac was quite a bit older and had already passed away by the time Rodin was commissioned to sculpt him. When Rodin received the commission, he undertook extensive research, studying photos and portraits, reading descriptions of him, and even visiting his birthplace to sketch the inhabitants focusing on one individual that people said looked like Balzac.
Why are the feet and hands out of proportion? Was it symbolic or structural?
Hands are particularly expressive for Rodin! You can see how the hands and their gesture draws attention to the despair of the Burgers of Calais, for instance. Making these expressive elements bigger helped to emphasize their importance in conveying the emotion of the figure.
This one seems particularly shiny!
I love how Rodin has smoothed and polished the surface to draw attention to the heightened sensuality of this couple who are doomed to never satisfy their love.
He liked the face of Paolo so much that he sold it as a separate sculpture under the title "Head of Sorrow." You can see a small version nearby.
Why do all the men look like they're in pain?
The Burghers of Calais were citizens of the French city of Calais who offered their lives to the English King to save their city during the Hundred Years War between England and France. Ultimately, their lives were spared, but Rodin chose to depict them before they learned that news. These men are contemplating what they thought was imminent death.
Any cool facts about this?
Sure! If you look very closely, you can still see traces of red paint in the hair! Most sculptures were brightly painted in ancient times.
Interestingly, the shape of her mouth is one of the ways we can tell that this fragment comes from the Ptolemaic or Hellenistic period.
My 7-year-old want to know: Why is this head so big?
It is big, isn't it? When Rodin made a sculpture of person (like the Burghers you see nearby), he would sculpt the heads and hands separately.
He wasn't very interested in getting the proportions right. If the head and hands were too big, that was okay. He more wanted them to show a lot of emotion and expression. The bigger the head, the more emotion it can show!
Wow, Thank you!
what is this?
This is a statue showing us sirens, part-bird and part-woman creatures from Greek mythology.
In this case, Rodin is preparing imagery for his larger work, The Gates of Hell. These mythological figures, known for luring some of Odysseus's crew to their deaths, were, in Rodin's eyes, a perfect match for the subject matter in The Gates of Hell.
At least five marble versions of this sculpture were also produced in Rodin's studio.
Using the clay models enabled the artist to change the scale of a piece?
To change the scale of the pieces, Rodin used what was called a Collas machine, named after engineer Achille Collas. This machine allowed the original sculpture and a clay or plaster blank to be kept at the same orientation, and relied on needles to transfer the profile of the finished work to the unfinished work of a different scale.
Is this bronze or wood?
The work you're looking at is made of bronze.
Rodin would first sculpt his works in clay and then have his studio assistants cast them in plaster. The plaster casts could then be used to cast the works in bronze, as you see in this exhibition.
What does "circa 100 CE" mean?
"Circa" means around or approximately and 100 CE refers to to the same year that you may have heard referred to as 100 AD. For example, this year would be 2018 CE.
I’m wondering if you could explain the casting process?
First, Rodin sculpts the work in clay and then a plaster mold is made in a heat resistant material, from the clay model. Then, the mold is filled with molten bronze.
Rodin's favored method of casting was the lost wax method, which allowed for the creation of hollow sculptures. It was important for large bronze works to be hollow so that they would cool evenly and not be as heavy in the end. In this method, wax is poured into the mold to create a sort of lining.
Then a clay-like material is poured into the mold and then entire thing is heated. Heating causes the wax to melt away and then the molten bronze is poured in to take its place.
There is a video in the exhibition which shows the process. It's a bit easier to understand with visual aids.
Who is Cybele?
Cybele is the name of an ancient Greco-Roman mother goddess.
When first exhibited, this work was critiqued for its monumental scale, sketch-like execution, and missing body parts, all elements that are now considered to contribute to its enigmatic quality as well as those that reflect what is characteristic of Rodin's style.
You're welcome. In the beginning of the exhibition you see the kinds of ancient sculpture Rodin collected and was inspired by. These often came to him in fragments and certainly influenced his practice.
Who were the Burghers?
The Burghers of Calais were 6 prominent citizens who offered their lives to the English crown in exchange for the end of the siege on their city, the French town of Calais, during the Hundred Year's war between England and France! Ultimately, their lives were spared, but Rodin chose to depict them before they received that news, in a moment of despair.
Acerca de The Gates of Hell, Rodin primero esculpió en mármol y después lo usaba de modle para el bronce? Como era su técnica?
Rodin esculpió primero en arcilla y después hicieron un molde de escayola. El molde se haría con un escayola resistente al calor para soportar la alta temperatura del bronce fundido.
Ok, ahora me quedó claro. Gracias.
It looks like something is wrong with his arm—like there is a tumor or something. Is that intentional?
Rodin often left what we might perceive as "imperfections" in the surface of his works because he believed they conveyed added expression to the works. He said "flesh lives, vibrates, struggles and suffers." Rodin often saved accidents and marks that are evidence of the sculptural process.
This man, Pierre de Wiessant, was one of six Burghers of Calais who surrendered their lives to the English king in return for his sparing of their city, Calais. Rodin captures him, and the rest of the group, at the moment they are walking towards their death.
You will see this kind of rough surface crop up again and again throughout the show. Especially in the work "Cybele," a large, seated, headless woman.
Did Rodin always make sculptures in bronze?
He is best known for his work in bronze, but he also worked in marble. We don't have any of his marble pieces in our collection. The bronze sculpting process also included steps in clay and in plaster.
Tell me more.
Not much is known about Rodin's inspiration for this sculpture, known as Youth Triumphant.
Like many of his works, what is especially interesting about this work, is the movement of the bodies. Rodin was particularly interested in conveying emotion through gesture. These figures' faces are largely obscured so you must turn to the bodies to begin to interpret it.
How did Rodin make these sculptures? Did he make casts and then pour bronze in? Or is it carved like stone?
You're first guess is right! The bronzes you see in the gallery were cast in molds which were themselves made from clay models that Rodin sculpted.
There is a short video in the exhibition that helps to explain this many-stepped process!
If you look closely at a few of the larger works you can even see seams where the mold came together.
Thanks for the details
Why is this incomplete?
This is actually an ancient fragment which dates to the Ptolemaic period in Egypt. Rodin liked to collect ancient fragments and put them in his studio as inspiration for his own works.
When did Rodin die?
Rodin died in 1917 at the age of 77.
What exactly is "Hand of Rodin With Torso" with torso about?
The mold for this bronze sculpture was created from Auguste Rodin's own hand by one of his assistants. It commemorates the hand of the artist and his role in the creation of his art, like the small torso shown.
A parallel can also be drawn between the hand of Rodin and the hand of God as creator.
You're welcome! The cast of Rodin's hand was actually requested by the man who would later become the first curator of the Rodin Museum in France.
Why was this statue cast in 1980 when the creation was in 1908?
That's a common question! Rodin designed the sculpture in 1908, but the mold still exists. He left everything in his studio to the French government upon his death, the Musée Rodin was created which houses many of his works and all of the molds that were in his possession.
With the permission of that museum and the French government, casts of Rodin's sculptures can still be made.
I don't know much about sculpture. In the Rodin exhibit, what does it mean for the cast to be attributed to someone?
When it says Cast by "Insert name here" that refers to the foundry, or metal working factory, that actually produced the bronze. Rodin made the clay sculptures and oversaw the production of the plaster molds but he worked with foundries to do the actually bronze casting. Casting is the process of pouring the molten bronze into the mold and then extracting it once it has hardened.
Ohh okay. That makes more sense now! Thanks!
Why is this bronze bust so much more gold than the others?
It has to do with the way that the surface was treated. This golden color is actually the "true" color of bronze. The more common dark brown color is a result of potassium sulfide being applied to the surface which then reacts with the copper in the bronze.
Was Rodin Jewish?
No, he was not. His sister was a nun and when Rodin was a young man, he joined the Society of the Blessed Sacrament, which was dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist.
Tell me more.
The mold for this bronze sculpture was created from Auguste Rodin's own hand by one of his assistants. It commemorates the hand of the artist and his role in the creation of his art, like the small torso shown.
Although the hand itself was cast by his assistant, the torso it holds was one of Rodin's own pieces. A parallel can also be drawn between the hand of Rodin and the hand of God as creator.
Can you tell me more about Rodin's fascination with dance as it relates to this piece?
Rodin was very interested in the professionally trained body and he often hired athletes and dancers to walk around his studio.
When one of them struck a pose that he liked, he would have them hold it, while he quickly made a clay model. His study of the body in motion informed his art practice and contributed to his recognition as one of the greatest sculptors of the human form.
Rodin loved any dance that wasn't ballet! He enjoyed the dancehall can-can, and was fascinated by an emerging generation of dance radicals, such as Isadora Duncan and Vaslav Nijinsky, who had rejected the traditional, academic style of ballet in favor of a more expressive language of dance.
Rodin used his significant influence (he was very well connected) to champion the careers of these dancers.
Although Rodin sculpted many works, the best example in this exhibit is the small figure of "Despair" that you took a photo of.
Is there any bronze cast of the gates of hell in any museum around the world or does only the plaster version survive?
Yes, you can see a bronze cast in the Musée Rodin in Paris, the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, and at Stanford University to name a few.
That one in Philadelphia was the first cast made from the artist's plaster models. It was cast in 1925. Rodin never finalized the Gates, but a mold was posthumously assembled from all of the separate figures he created with the intention of including them in the composition.
I find it fascinating that this commission, although never completed, was the source of so much inspiration for the artist.
Were the models who could make these poses professional models, athletes, or dancers or did Rodin exaggerate the poses?
For many of his sculptures, Rodin invited athletic models and professionally trained dancers into his studio to pose for him; he was interested in the expressiveness of the professionally trained body. However, Rodin also liked to manipulate his clay sculptures to exaggerate poses for expressive purposes.
Tell me more about the Gates of Hell.
The Gates of Hell was probably one of the most ambitious projects that Rodin embarked on. It was never cast during his lifetime though but, according to his designs, a limited number of bronze casts have been made posthumously.
For the project, Rodin modeled hundreds of figures from Dante's Divine Comedy, the Bible, and Classical mythology. After the commission was canceled, he recycled, reduced, fragmented, or recombined many of the figures and recast them as independent sculptures, the most famous of which is The Thinker seen here at the center of the lintel.
Is there a connection between Rodin and Michelangelo?
Yes, at the height of his career, Auguste Rodin was regarded as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. This was the ultimate compliment to Rodin who revered the work of the great Italian master!
In 1876, Rodin traveled to Italy to study Michelangelo's work. Many of Rodin's subsequent figures display the exaggerated musculature and angular poses for which Michelangelo was known. He once said, "it was Michelangelo who liberated me from academicism.”
Can you tell me more about him?
This sculpture is a bronze version of Pierre de Wiessant, one of the Burghers of Calais, originally sculpted in 1886 by Rodin and cast in bronze in 1983 by Fonderie de Coubertin.
I'm not familiar with the history of Calais in the 14th century. Can you tell me what the city was suffering from at the time?
In 1346 King Edward III of England laid siege to Calais, a port in Northern France. This event was part of the Hundred Years War between England and France. After eleven months of siege, King Edward III agreed to spare the rest of the citizenry in exchange for the surrender of six of the leaders of Calais. Pierre de Weissant was one of these six burghers.
Wow, what a remarkable act on their part.
I'm sure you've noticed the contorted poses, as each man prepares for what he thinks will be his death. The burghers were actually spared by the Queen of England, but Rodin chose to show them as they made their sacrifice!
Yes, the form really does convey the emotion.
Can you tell me about this?
In 1884, Rodin was commissioned by the city of Calais to create a monument in their honor of these six men, known as the Burghers of Calais, who had heroically volunteered their lives to save their city during the Hundred Years War. We have three of the six final figures in our collection. This model shows all six on an elaborate shared based that was ultimately never created at full scale.
Does the casting destroy the mold?
Not in the process that Rodin used. There is a video, in the exhibition, that helps explain how it works!
The molds were made in a few parts so that they could be pulled apart instead of shattered. If you look closely, you can even see evidence of these seams on some of the casts, like the Cybele.
I'd like to learn more about this piece.
The way the body is twisted, with legs moving in one direction and the torso in the other creates a sense of tension. If you look around the back, you can still see hair remaining from the missing head!
This is a great example of work by Rodin that shows the influence of Michelangelo. The muscular figure of this “Cybele” is very similar to figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Tell me more.
Rodin's work is seen as a crucial link between traditional and modern art. His early sculpture was fairly conventional for its time but he became progressively more experimental.
This figure is pared down; Rodin has removed any details that distract from the essential form of the figure. This move towards abstraction and expressiveness has led many to call Rodin the "father of twentieth-century modern sculpture".
I’m wondering about the origins of the image Serapis and the relevance of what appear to be horns.
Serapis is one of those deities that arose due to the close relationship between Egypt and Greece, especially during the Ptolemaic period in ancient Egypt when Greek kings ruled. It combines various characteristics of both greek and Egyptian deities.
The horns are actually a reference to the god Amun, who was the king of gods (much like his Greek counterpart Zeus) and was associated with the ram. Hence, the horns.
Thanks so much. What a delightful service!
Tell me more.
This small sculpture shows one of the Burghers of Calais, Pierre de Weissant. Weissant was the fourth burgher to sacrifice himself to the English in exchange for an end to the siege on his city. Rodin or someone in his workshop would have used a pointing device called a Collas Machine to create this reduced version.
Was Rodin's "Thinker" recycled from The Gates of Hell?
Basically yes! The Gates of Hell were never completed during Rodin's lifetime, but he did create sculptures of many of the individual figures featured in the final composition.
What we know as The Thinker is indeed that central figure and he is meant to represent the author, Dante Aligheri, of The Divine Comedy (including The Inferno).
Do you know what the rope symbolizes?
The rope is a symbol of their surrender. They were marched out of the city barefoot and wearing rags with ropes connecting them around their necks.
Why did Rodin not finish the Gates of Hell?
He died before he had the chance to complete the Gates of Hell. It was never fully assembled and cast in bronze during his lifetime. He also saw the project as a great opportunity for experimentation, artistic inquiry, and invention, and so worked on it after the commission for the work had fallen through in the 1880s.
Because the original commission fell through, he didn't have to adhere to a strict timeline and was free to just keep experimenting with the forms and figures in the work!
Tell me more.
Rodin did several sculptures of intertwined bodies that seem to organically rise up from the earth.
This work presents a scene of lovemaking between two women. One figure perhaps symbolizes the earthly realm and the other, with wings, would be the angel.
Was this cast accepted or rejected?
This work was part of the accepted proposal for Rodin's sculpture as it was made in 1902, after his proposal had been accepted and he could work through it more!
Did Rodin ever sculpt his son, Auguste-Eugene?
I cannot find any evidence that he sculpted his son, but I wouldn't be surprised to know he did.
What is plaster?
Plaster is a paste typically made from lime or gypsum, water and sand. At first it is liquid and can be cast in a mold which quickly hardens.
Sculptors often use plaster to make copies or molds of their clay art. In Rodin's case, these plaster molds were then filled with bronze to make the final sculptures.
Rodin made several versions of the Burgers of Calais, including smaller copies such as the one you see here.
Interesting! I have learned so much!
What makes Rodin so significant? Why is so much of his work in NYC lately?
To answer your second question first, it is the 100th anniversary of Rodin's death and several organizations have arranged to exhibit his work at the same time to commemorate him. Also, B. Gerald Cantor was the single most important collector of Rodin's work. He left many pieces by Rodin to New York museums.
Ah ha! Thank you.
You're welcome! Rodin is considered very significant because he is seen as a crucial link between traditional and modern art. He was not interested in idealized, perfect sculpture, but instead tried to make work that was emotionally expressive.
You may have heard this before, but many consider Rodin to be "the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo". However, it's fair to say he has had his share of critics!
Wow! Yeah, I was at the Rodin Museum not long ago. It's amazing how much work this guy produced.
Who is Serapis and why does he have horns?
Serapis was deity that combined traits of a few different Egyptian and Greek gods. The ram's horns, in particular are a reference to the Egyptian god Amun.
Amun was the king of the gods in the later periods of ancient Egypt and he was most often associated with the ram.
I was wondering if you could tell me, how do you pronounce the artists name?
I can try! "Ro" has a long o, like row your boat. "din" sounds like the name Dan. Does that help?
Perfect just making sure! Thank you
How does one mold or shape bronze? It’s a metal right? So is a heated torch used? Or do you chisel it?
Bronze is actually cast! First you need to sculpt the work out of another material, in Rodin's case clay, and then make a mold into which molten bronze can be poured. Once the molten bronze is cool, you're left with a bronze version of the piece.
Who did Rodin use as his models? People he knew or just from memory?
Rodin did sculpt people he knew personally, including his long-time companion Rose Beuret, whose body was the model for many of Rodin's female figures.
He was also interested in the professionally trained body and hired dancers and athletes to pose in his studio. Sometimes when he wanted to sculpt the portrait of a deceased person, he would try to find a living model that resembled them. For example, when Rodin won the commission to make a monument to Balzac, he traveled to the writer's hometown to find a man that resembled him!
Did he ever do a sculpture of himself?
I know that he drew self portraits of himself. One scholar has argued that one of the sculpted figures for the Gates of Hell is a self-portrait, although I think that is open to debate!
This was cast decades after it was created?
That's correct. Rodin created the mold that this head was cast from. Upon his death, he willed his studio and all of his molds to the French government. They were preserved in the Musee Rodin in Paris.
Casts were, of course, made during Rodin's lifetime, but more than one cast can be made from a single mold.
Oh I see.
Where can other busts or statues by Rodin of his companion, Rose Beuret, be found? This is such a striking depiction of the woman he loved.
There is a plaster bust of Rose Beuret at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The label mentions dropped scissors, is there a reason why the scissors would have been dropped behind?
In Greek mythology the "fates," figures that appear as old women, carry enchanted scissors that they use to end people's lives manifested in the form of a thread.
In this sculpture, the dropped scissors suggest that the Fate will not be cutting the young woman's thread and the young women will be able to go on living.
So two real humans actually did this, right?
In this case, it's likely that he had two models pose separately and then fit the two clay models together. He also carved the faces separately as well, based on another model and created a composite.
That's quite typical of Rodin's work. You'll notice that one section of the exhibition is titled, "The Body in Pieces," which explores his process of reusing and reconfiguring existing forms to generate new compositions.
The hands and arms are also a bit out of scale, right?
It seems so, yes. Rodin was of the opinion that a single part of a figure could convey the same meaning as the whole. He often enlarged hands and feet to emphasize a particular emotion—in this case, perhaps longing, desire, and frustration.
So even the expressiveness of one professionally trained body wouldn’t satisfy him, he had to assemble his own version of perfect human body.
Yes, that or what he thought was the perfect combination of attributes, both real and imagined, that most completely portrayed the emotion of the figure, not just their physicality.
Why are the eyes hollow?
We're not sure, but one theory is that it is meant as a reference to ancient sculptures which often have hollow eyes where the inlays were removed. Rodin often took inspiration from ancient sculpture including the ways that damage would change the overall effect.
Este escultura es de Pierre de Wiessant, uno de los Burghers de Calais, una ciudad en Francia. Los Burghers de Calais fueron considerados héroes porque ofrecieron sus vidas para salvar su ciudad. Rodin los capturó en el momento justo antes de sus muertos.
Tell me more.
This is the Head of Sorrow, which appeared four times in Rodin's conception of The Gates of Hell, an ambitious commission that was never completed as the funding fell through.
Rodin reused and recycled various fragments and figures from the commission for individual pieces after the project fell through and the Head of Sorrow was one of the most often recycled body fragments.
Because the head is androgynous, Rodin could use it for both male and female figures. This method, derived from the industrial concept of interchangeability, also aligned with Rodin's conviction that art is transformable, always alive, and never finished.
Thank you so much for this!
Who is she?
Mignon is the first portrait that Rodin created of his long-time partner and eventual wife, Rose Beuret. He met her in 1864, six years before this work was created, when she was still a seamstress. Beuret posed for Rodin many times. You can see the likeness of Rodin and Beuret's son, Auguste Beuret, very likely used on the burgher Andrieu d'Andres.
Are the Rodin pieces all casts? Are they one of a kind?
That's a very common question as things easily get very murky when it comes to bronze casting. The majority of Rodin's sculptures in bronze are not one of a kind because they are made from a mold which can be and was reused.
Rodin made the models out of clay or other malleable material. The molds were created from these models. The final works are the bronze casts that come from these molds.
Rodin never set a limit on the number of casts that could be made from his molds. In fact, all but one of the works in this exhibition were cast after his death. In 1981, the French government began to pass laws about how many casts could be made and even who could own them.
I'm glad that I'm not alone in asking that question! That all makes sense and now that I watched the film about how a bronze cast is made. It's quite the labor intensive process!
What is the material used in the Rodin exhibit?
Rodin worked primarily in bronze, which is what you see in the exhibition here. There are also examples of ancient works in stone like those Rodin would have looked to for inspiration.
Regarding the lost wax method, are the cast bronzes solid rather than hollow? That's what the video seemed to imply.
Lost wax can produce both solid and hollow bronzes. Most of Rodin’s works are sand cast, however. Rodin's large sculptures were typically cast hollow, although I believe some of the smaller ones are solid.
Thanks, the video wasn't clear.
We have been getting many questions about Rodin's process. One thing I was interested to learn is how involved Rodin was in selecting the surface patinas for the bronzes.
They all seem to have the same dark patina; I stand corrected:
Yes! There are subtle variations—some have a green cast and others are more golden brown. These were important, as they altered the effect of light over the bronze surface.
What is the connection for Rodin to Hell, such as the Gates of Hell? Was there spiritual influence in his life?
I would say that hell was more of an artistic influence than a spiritual one. He used the subject to explore a range of subjects, including sensuality, athleticism and various types of love.
I think the subject of hell appealed to him because it was so richly described in literary history (Dante Aligheri’s The Inferno, the Bible, etc) and he saw the opportunity to give a physical, aesthetic form to descriptions of hell.
Something I find interesting is that a lot of the most risqué figures that came out of the Gates of Hell project were never exhibited in his lifetime. For example , the "Damed Women" sculpture was too blatantly erotic for most 1885 viewers.
Why is this just the head?
Rodin made studies of heads and hands separate from bodies, in order to focus on expression. These were sometimes cast and sold as unique sculptures.
I feel that this is an exceptionally expressive face. You can see Jean d'Aire drawing his lips in tightly in determination but his eyes betray his fear.
Most of the Rodins I'm seeing here were cast in the sixties and seventies. Who keeps and owns the molds and determines how many more bronze series can be done? I heard that sometimes the mold is broken by the artist after the bronze series is done.
That is a great question and something that many visitors wonder about. Rodin was a very commercially-minded artist and during his lifetime, he did not limit the number of casts made of each work. After his death, he left his molds and artwork still in his possession to the French government who set laws about how many copies could be cast.
Tell me more.
Eustache de Saint-Pierre was one of the Burghers of Calais, citizens of the French town of Calais who offered to surrender their lives to the English crown in order to save their city during the Hundred Years War between France and England in 1347.
Rodin rejected established conventions of public sculpture. He wanted the men not on a pedestal, but affixed to the paving stones so that people could interact with them. He portrayed them, not as glorious heroes but as troubled individuals experiencing the anguish and desolation of approaching one's certain death.
For site specific works are there multiples?
Yes! Although many of Rodin’s sculptures were commissioned to be monuments for specific places, multiples of his work were cast after Rodin's death. This sculpture was initially created for The Gates of Hell, which was a commission for the doors of a Paris museum. The museum was never built and the commission was cancelled but Rodin continued to work on the project for the rest of his life.
What is the meaning of the hands?
These hands are kind of like practice sculptures for larger works. Rodin was interested in expressing stories and emotion through the body. He would sculpt different body parts separately so that he could focus on one at a time. For example, the large hand on the left is based on the hand of a pianist. Also, Rodin took inspiration from ancient sculpture which is often found in fragments.
What is going on here?
This sculpture depicts two women giving into their desires for one another. The sculpture was conceived as part of The Gates of Hell project.
Rodin was likely responding to a book of erotic poetry published by Charles Baudelaire that described women as having sexual desire. This concept was a revelation in a time of strict moral codes of behavior for women.
Interestingly, Damned Women was never exhibited during Rodin’s lifetime, due it its blatant eroticism.
That’s fascinating, thank you.
How long would a sculpture like this take to complete?
A final sculpture like this one was the result of a multi-step process. Rodin received the commission for the Burghers of Calais group in 1884 and these final versions are dated to between 1886 and 1888.
Rodin's sculptural process began in clay. First he made a model. Then a mold was made from that model. Lastly, the bronze version was cast from the model. This process was repeated numerous times as Rodin experimented and worked out his design.
As an example, you can see a nude version of this same sculpture near the entrance to the exhibition. The nude was a step in the process. Rodin draped it with actual fabric to figure out how he wanted this final, clothed version to look.
Can you tell me more about the Franco-Prussian War?
The Franco-Prussian War was a conflict between the Second French Empire of Napoleon III and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia.
The conflict was caused by Prussian desire to extend German unification and French fear of the shift in the European balance of power should the Prussians succeed.
What happened to the head? Who is she?
The original figure was much smaller and was intended for The Gates of Hell, a set of bronze doors commissioned for a museum in Paris. The museum never opened and the commission was cancelled, so Rodin repurposed and enlarged many of the figures, to be sold as independent sculptures. He removed the head 1905 in response to his fascination with ancient fragments. He called her a "cybele", which is an ancient Greco-Roman deity.
Tell me more about this photo and how it was produced.
Edward Steichen and Auguste Rodin were friends. The photographer has chosen to portray the sculptor in the pose of a genius deep in thought. Photogravure is a type of intaglio printmaking, where a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin that is exposed to a film positive and then etched resulting in a print that has the tonal range of a photograph.
Is it correct that Rodin did not cast many of his work?
Yes, in fact Rodin was never involved in that stage of the production. He outsourced all of the bronze casting to foundries outside of his workshop. Rodin worked with several different bronze foundries. In fact, once he was famous, they competed to be the ones to cast his work!
This sculpture of a "Cybele" shows the influence of Michelangelo on Rodin. The woman's twisting and muscular body is very similar to figures that appear on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
What is this?
This bronze sculpture shows Pierre de Wiessant, one of the Burghers of Calais. The Burghers of Calais were heroes of the town of Calais who, during the Hundred Years War in the 14th century, sacrificed themselves to the English in order to halt the siege of the town.
Rodin was commissioned, five centuries later, to create a a monument to them. This monument was innovative in the way that it shows human suffering and anguish, rather than stoic heroism.
Can you tell me more about what a commission is or was for an artist like Rodin? Gates of Hell for example?
Sure! In general, commissions are essentially jobs. An individual or group hires an an artist to create a work, often based on their specific desires and needs.
For instance, Rodin was hired by the French government in 1880 to create an entranceway to a proposed museum of decorative arts in Paris. Rodin chose the theme for the Gates of Hell based on the government's needs for the work while taking influence from 15th century Italian sculptor Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise in Florence.
Did he have any statements regarding his choice to will his art to the government?
According to the Musée Rodin, he donated his collection to the the French state in three parts with the ultimate creation of a museum in mind.
He leased the Hôtel Biron and began the process of turning it into his museum during his lifetime.
He said (in French, of course), "I give to the state all of my work: plaster, marble, bronze, stone, and my drawings as well as my collection of antiques which I have been pleased to gather for the training and education of artists and workers."
"And I ask the state to keep all these collections within the Hôtel Biron which will be the Rodin Museum and where I reserve the right to live all my life."
I love the color and finish.
It is beautiful. If you look closely, you can see that each bronze has a unique patina. I admire the rich color of this sculpture.
Who is it?
This is Jean d'Aire. He was one of the citizens of Calais who volunteered to sacrifice his life to save his city when it was under siege by the English in 1347.
The city of Calais commissioned Rodin to boost morale and patriotism after France was defeated in the Franco Prussian War. Rodin also made a sculpture of the Mayor of Calais, Omer Dewavrin, who helped him to secure the commission. That portrait is on display towards the back of the exhibition.
Did Rodin create this miniature sculpture from a Burgher before the taller one?
This is a reduced version of the final (larger) sculpture, so, in this case, the larger one was created first. Nearby there is another small figure made in 1885. That one was a Maquette (study) produced before the large monument.
Like most sculptors of his day, Rodin produced reductions of his sculptures. He never limited the number of casts produced in his lifetime (after his death, the French state started to number and restrict casts).
The Gates of Hell is in Philadelphia now, but where was it originally made and in use?
The Gates of Hell was originally commissioned by the French state in 1880, to be placed in a prospective Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. The museum was never built and the commission was cancelled.
Still, Rodin continued to work on the piece and a limited run of bronze versions of the work were cast after his death.
So really, there is no one existing place where the Gates of Hell were originally in use, but casts can be seen today in Paris at the Musée Rodin, in Philadelphia, Stanford, Zurich, Seoul, Mexico City, and Tokyo, and a plaster version at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
If Rodin sculpted in plaster, how does it then get "cast" in bronze?
Rodin actually sculpted first in clay, then cast the work in plaster, and then in bronze. The casting process involves making a mold of the original sculpture, then removing the clay (destroying the original sculpture) and filling in the remaining cavity with plaster. A plaster replica of the original sculpture is the result.
Bronze is cast in very much the same way, making a further mold via a method called the sand casting method from the plaster version. With plaster, multiple molds can be made rather than just one, and the bronze replicas can be made over and over, filling in the cavity in the mold with molten bronze to create each replica.
This doesn't seem like a typical Rodin.
Great observation. This sculpture, "The Age of Bronze" is very naturalistic and smooth. It shows that Rodin was perfectly capable of sculpting life-like figures—even if he rarely chose to do so. In general, Rodin valued energetic, expressive figures over anatomical correctness. When this work was first shown, critics accused Rodin of casting a model's body because it is so naturalistic!
In fact, what he had done was study a single model over a period of eighteen months, observing his body and even its imperfections with incredible attention to detail. This bronze version is a reduced iteration of the life sized plaster that critics first saw in 1877.
What does “cast by” mean in the Rodin exhibition?
Great question! Rodin never made the bronze versions (casts) of his sculptures. He paid specialized bronze workshops (foundries) to do that for him. The "cast by" indicates which foundry made the bronze sculpture.
There is a video in the back of the show that shows Rodin's process, if you are interested!
Aha! Thank you! Great to know
I have a very stupid question: what was really going on in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? How did a society produce people like Rodin, Monet and genuinely reboot art? It wasn’t all the Franco-Prussian war, was it?
France, like other European nations, was experiencing enormous changes in the late 19th century; increased industrialization caused major changes to class structures. The Franco-Prussian War did have a devastating impact on the French psyche, which is something that artists like Rodin picked up on in their work.
The war affected the way that the French viewed women. At this time there was the idea that the role of women was to have more French babies, to increase the population and swell the ranks of the army. This is reflected in the heightened sensuality in art depicting women in this period.
That is a great point.
Why is Suzon the only piece that looks the color of Bronze although that is not the newest piece?
Many of Rodin's works were treated after being cast with patina that would affect the finish of the bronze!
Interesting. Thank you!
Who's hand is that?
This is one of many hands that Rodin sculpted. We don't know whose it was modeled after, if anyone. Rodin was fascinated by the expressive qualities of gesture and often experimented with disembodied parts.
Tell me about Rodin please.
Hi there! Rodin was a sculptor with a unique way of working and prolific career, who lived from 1840 to 1917. He sculpted first in clay, and often parts of the body, which he would then study and recombine to create works that could be cast in plaster and then in bronze.
Rodin was inspired in part by fragmented classical sculpture, and created several well known monumental works, including the Burghers of Calais and The Gates of Hell.
Rodin is known for the emotion and weight he added to his sculpted forms, during a time when polished and impersonal sculpture was the norm. Notice, for instance, the large, expressive hands on the sculpture of Pierre de Wiessent that greeted you on the way in.
Is there any information on what inspired Rodin to create the Gates Of Hell?
The Gates were commissioned by the French government to be the entrance to a museum of decorative arts in Paris. Ultimately, the museum was never built, but the Gates have since been cast for other institutions including the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia.
The design of the Gates of Hell is based on the writings of Dante Aligheri's The Divine Comedy which include The Inferno, a description of the geography of Hell.
Is that a work that he studied in depth?
Rodin was certainly very interested the Dante's writing and The Divine Comedy remains a very popular book to this day.
Some of Rodin's favorite characters were Paolo and Francesca, a pair who lusted after one another despite other relationships in their lives. They were condemned to be intertwined, but never to consummate their lust.
What in the Gates of Hell is based on/inspired by Baudelaire?
In terms of what is in this exhibition, you’ll notice “Damned Women,” one of many sculptures that was to be included in the Gates of Hell composition, is titled after a poem about lesbian love of the same name in Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil.
Tell me more.
A marble version of this sculpture, Andromeda, was exhibited at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago! The marble sculpture was removed from the exhibit hall within a week, as it was deemed too risqué by the organizing committee.
Andromeda is a figure from Greek mythology who was chained to a rock by Poseidon, and then rescued by Perseus so she wouldn't be eaten by a sea monster.
How long did it take to make this?
We don't know exactly how long Rodin spent making the clay model, but we do know that he made multiple studies for each part: the hands, the head, the torso, etc.
After he was done, a studio assistant would make a plaster mold. Then the mold would be filled with wax. This would be sent to a special foundry for the final piece to be cast in bronze using the lost wax technique.
The final bronze would be given a special patina finish. Each step would take several days! There's a video in the last part of the exhibit, if you are interested.
You're welcome! I find it interesting that Rodin chose to smooth out the surface on some pieces, but left others rough and expressive.
Which Rodin sculpture was cast while he was alive?
There is only one work in the show that we know was cast when Rodin was alive: the portrait bust of Gustav Mahler. The portrait of Father Pierre-Julien Eymard was possibly cast in his lifetime, or within a few years of Rodin passing.
I find it interesting that even if there were multiples cast of each work, every piece has a slightly different surface patina that makes it unique.
I'm debating in my head the implication that Rodin was really the first sculptor to move away from "allegiance to the classical formula...[that] had drained much sculpture of vitality" and to reject "static forms and lifeless exhortations." What about Bernini, several centuries back? His sculptures are famous for their depiction of dramatic, sweeping movement that became hallmarks of the Baroque period. So are we supposed to consider him the first sculptor of just *his* generation, because we can't really consider Bernini "modern" at all? Or is this claim about Rodin true because his subject matter truly is completely separated from any classical myth or Biblical incident, and it's more about the human form as it exists unto itself than it is a story?
Or is it because he was focusing on the tension and movement of the body using bronze instead of marble, and that was the main departure from the norm at that time?
That is certainly a debatable subject! One factor is tied into "modernity" as you suggested. Rodin's work broke from the immediately previous tradition and led to an immediate shift in the field of sculpture.
The use of marble vs. bronze was not a factor. Both were used before Rodin and Rodin himself worked in both media.
The differences in intention between Bernini's storytelling and Rodin's experimentation with the body itself is also a key fact. Plus Bernini was looking to Hellenistic precedents whereas Rodin was intentionally trying to create something new and never seen before.
Both artists did depict Classical/Biblical subjects and portraits.
That makes sense, thank you! I didn't know that much about Rodin's work before so that all is good to know; I was basing my impression of his devotion to bronze just on this exhibit but it makes sense of course that he would have worked with marble as well.
The bronzes, as you might imagine, are much easier to come by because they can be cast over and over again, so I can see how that would happen!
Did the public enjoy this sculpture?
This was one of many studies and doesn't really reflect the final piece which featured Balzac with messy, haphazard hair and draped in a shapeless cloak.
People were not pleased with the final product calling it, “a sack of potatoes” and “a lump of plaster kicked together by a lunatic.”
Was this left un-cast until 1969. If so where was it and why?
Well, as you may have noticed the label names this as 9th in an edition of 12. The original clay model and plaster cast were made by Rodin in the late 1880s this bronze sculpture wasn't cast until 1969. The models and casts were considered part of his estate and gifted to the French government, later becoming the responsibility of the Musee Rodin in France.
Most of the sculptures in this exhibition were cast after Rodin's death. The right to continue to cast his work is overseen by Musee Rodin, which limits multiple casts of the same work to 12. 1–8 are available for public purchase, while 9-12 are reserved for cultural institutions.
I'm just surprised that the museum waited 50+ years to make the casts.
That is just the date for this ninth cast of only one work. The other eight would have been cast before. Also, think of all the other Rodin works that could've been cast in the interim. He left such a vast body of work behind!
I didn't realize that all 12 were not cast at one time.
The law, passed in 1981, was applied retroactively and the number of casts made at once seems to be at the discretion of the Musee Rodin.
What's the story with this?
The theme to this one is actually fairly simple. It is meant to show innocent happiness with a cherub and a young child hugging surrounded by flowers.
This kind of lively, pleasant scene was popular in decoration in the 18th and 19th centuries. Essentially, the happy, innocent subject was fashionable!
Tell me more.
This is one of the Burgher of Calais, a final version. Eustache de Saint-Pierre was the oldest and most wealthy of the group. Although not in the show, Rodin did make a nude study of this figure. He is portrayed here mid-stride.
His first step towards the English King is a resigned tread. Rodin broke with convention by portraying the Burghers during moments of despair as they approached their death and not in triumph after the English Queen pardoned them.
Is the small figure top left of the Gates of Hell a model for the larger work The Shade?
Essentially, yes! All three figures at the top of the Gates are meant to be shades, but there are versions of each figure separately.
Did Rodin draw a lot too? I usually only see sculptures when I go to Rodin exhibits
He was a prolific draughtsman! He produced over 10,000 drawings. His drawings are rarely exhibited because they are so fragile. Most of them are figurative, like his sculpture.
Ah okay, that makes sense. They are probably really cool. Figurative drawing captures body movement so well.
Is this made of bronze? What prevents it from rusting?
It is indeed made of bronze. Rather than rust, bronze develops a patina on the surface. This is a chemical reaction to oxygen that changes the color of the surface.
Oh thank you!
Is the law of 12 casts in France only for Rodin or for any sculptor?
To my knowledge, it is used to control posthumous casts of Rodin's sculptures. When Rodin died, he left his estate to France, which is how the country is able to control the number of casts produced. Sculptors whose estates do not belong to the state are not subject to these restrictions.
He looks so sad.
This head represents one of the many steps in Rodin's design process in composing the Burghers of Calais. Pierre de Wiessant, seen here, is one of six figures for the monument.
Rodin was inspired by Gothic period representations of Christ as the "Man of Sorrows" when creating these emotionally tortured faces.
How did Rodin create these works?
After Rodin made the clay models, a studio assistant would form plaster molds around them. The clay would then be removed from the mold, which would be taken to a bronze foundry. There, molten bronzes could be cast in multiples.
The bronze, once it cooled and hardened, would be given a chemical patina (surface treatment).
How did Rilke and Rodin meet?
They first met outside of Paris in 1902 when Rilke took on a project as an art critic to write a German monograph on Auguste Rodin who was 61 at the time.
Was he already writing poetry?
Yes, he was already writing poetry at that time but his observations of and conversations with Rodin helped him discover how to be a better poet.
What’s the meaning behind the three men standing on the top of the gates of hell?
The three figures at the top of the Gates of Hell are the three shades, characters from Dante Aligheri's Divine Comedy. In his writing, the shades represent the souls of the damned who stand at the entrance to Hell. Notice they are pointing down. They are pointing to the message “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”
Thanks a lot!
I see that Rodin made multiple versions of works. Was this to lead up to and practice for the final piece?
It depends on the work you're looking at. For instance, we have several works in the exhibition that were in preparation for the monument to Balzac. In other cases, multiples have been cast in bronze from a mold of the original sculpture.
That makes sense.
Yes! A lot of work went into making the models and molds, but once made they could be efficiently replicated.
But I see that the number is limited to 12—is that still the case?
Yes. The restrictions on the number of multiples weren't established during Rodin's lifetime but in the 1950s production was limited, with the caveat that the works produced were considered "the artist's handiwork" and were therefore original, despite his death. Basically, the limit to 12 casts preserves the integrity of Rodin's original work while allowing his body of work to grow after his death.
I agree. You don't often hear of artists producing more work after they've died!
So nice, in fact, that people actually thought that sculpture was fake at first because it was too perfect. Rodin first presented a life-size version that viewers thought was just a man covered in bronze, but Rodin was just really talented!
Why are some of the sculptures in the Rodin exhibit in clear boxes and some not?
Some of the objects might be more susceptible to air and temperature given their state of conservation. And while visitors are not supposed to touch any of the objects, adding a case is especially helpful as an added layer of protection!
Of course, it's easier to place smaller objects in a case than it is some of the larger busts and full body sculptures.
When was bronze used to make sculptures such as this one
This sculpture was designed in 1908 and this edition was cast in 1980. People have been making bronze sculptures since ancient times! There is a video in the back that shows how bronze sculptures are made.
Tell me more.
This sculpture was made early in Rodin's career, while he was working in Belgium.
You can see that the naturalism of the babies' bodies is very different from the expressive, exaggerated forms of Rodin's later work.
Are there any sculptures of Camille Claudel?
There is one sculpture that is based on the likeness of Claudel, it's called "Study for La France or Saint George."
Can you tell me more?
Rodin referenced the features of his assistant and lover, Camille Claudel, for this allegorical personification of France. A cast of this work was given to the US as a gift and can be found at the base of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse in Crown Point, New York, which is near the Vermont border.
One thing I love about Rodin's work is how the surface of the figures and the treatment of the bronze, to produce different colors and levels of polish, can add meaning to the work beyond the subject being represented.
Would he base each part of the body on real life models?
Yes, in most cases. He had models walk around the studio nude and whenever one of them struck an interesting pose, he would ask them to freeze and would quickly sculpt a clay figure.
Oh interesting. Was he more interested in the different poses or was he trying to construct the perfect human form?
He was interested in different poses and body types. Take a look at all the specific body fragments he studied. For instance, you can see two hands independent of bodies, one of which belongs specifically to a pianist!
The Burghers of Calais usually consist of 6 full sized individuals. Why has the museum 3? Were they bought as individuals?
The museum acquired all of these burghers of Calais from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in 1983. I can look further into how they acquired the pieces, though I can say for certain that the Burghers need not be purchased as a set.
Rodin would cast his sculptures over and over in different iterations and recombinations. We have three final versions of the Burgers of Calais, and one nude version of Pierre de Weissent.
Thanks. I've learnt something today.
I'm glad! Right before his death Rodin willed his estate to the French Government. They enforced restrictions on the number of sculptures that could posthumously be produced of any of Rodin's works, setting the number 12 as distinct: Eight of the twelve casts produced at any of these post-death castings are available to the public to purchase and are numbered 1 through 8; the other four, numbered I through IV, are reserved for cultural institutions. So individual sculptures have been available for purchase.
Where was Rodin born?
Rodin was born in Paris in 1840. He lived in Paris much of his life. He left many sculptures and all of his molds to the French government upon his death and a Musee Rodin was opened just outside of the city.
Rodin was a famous and prolific French sculptor. He credited with being the first modern sculptor especially for his experimentation with the human form.
You may be familiar with the sculpture The Thinker, which is one of Rodin's most reproduced works.
Is this a young couple? A precedent for The Kiss?
The Kiss was actually sculpture over a decade before this one! This sculpture, called "Youth Triumphant," shows an older woman and a younger woman. Rodin liked to combine and recombine limbs and figures he had sculpted in new ways, and often left works like this up to the individual interpretation of the viewer.
The older of the two women reappears in another work by Rodin called "The Helmet-Maker’s Wife."
While the women embrace, their relationship remains unclear, complicated by the multiple titles given to this work, including "Fate and the Convalescent" and "Young Girl and Fate."
Whose foot is this?
The foot belongs to Serapis, a fusion of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis and various Hellenistic deities, namely Zeus and Helios. This colossal left foot was intentionally made as just one body part; it's not a fragment of a larger sculpture.
Rodin collected and surrounded himself with ancient artifacts like these, which I'm sure you can see reflected in his studies of disembodied heads and hands.
He found symbolic and aesthetic inspiration in ancient sculptures that were missing arms or heads. He especially appreciated them as self-sufficient forms that did not require a narrative or context to be expressive.
Tell me more.
Pierre de Wiessant appears so many times in this exhibition. You may have noticed his nude figure when you first walked into the show. Here, Rodin has made a study of his head. Further into the exhibition, you will find the monumental, clothed version.
As a part of Rodin's practice he would create various studies in the build up to the production of the final bronze. He took an innovative approach to the depiction of Pierre de Wiessant and his fellow burghers, citizens of the French city of Calais who offered their lives in order to save their city.
Instead of portraying them as triumphant heroes, he depicts them in their final moments, as they are being marched towards their execution. The expression here certainly speaks to that.
We just watched the video of how Rodin made his sculptures, and we don't understand why the wax step in the casting process is necessary.
The wax step is important to creating a hollow piece of bronze in the end. Especially with the larger sculptures, if they weren't hollow they would not cool evenly and be unmanageably heavy.
The wax acts as an easily removable placeholder while the caster is creating the mold's core to be used in the final bronze casting process.
Ok! That makes sense. One more question: why did they need to shape/correct the wax once it had been set, if it was going to melt away and had no effect on the actual shape of the cast/mould into which the bronze would be set?
Sometimes, in the wax casting process, the hollow wax copy is removed from the mold and then dipped into another material which when heated creates a ceramic shell, while the wax melts away.
This means that the wax copy must be perfect as it is what will create the space for the bronze to fill in the ceramic shell.
It is dressed to hide imperfections and a heated tool is sometimes used to remove the lines where the pieces of the mold come together. You want the wax to look as much like the finished piece as possible.
Ah, that's what we missed, now it all makes sense. Incredibly interesting, thank you so much for your help! Learning lots today!
The exhibit talks about how many different sculptors and specialists worked for him, who he directed in the making of his works. What stages in the process was Rodin most involved with personally?
I supposed I would say that he was most involved in the sculpting in clay. That said he did continue to oversee the whole process. I don't think there was a defined point where he "handed it off."
The actual act of casting in bronze is a very technical process that required the expertise of a foundry.
Yes I watched the video! Amazing
I’ve read a lot about the relationship between Rodin and Camille Claudel. I was surprised she was not mentioned in the Rodin exhibit. Or did I miss it?
There isn't much mention of Claudel in this exhibition because it focuses on the pieces we have in our collection which mostly don't relate directly to her, though she was an important part of Rodin's life.
I would recommend checking out Study for La France or Saint George, a bust-length sculpture that is based on Claudel's likeness.
What inspired this?
The Prodigal Son refers to a biblical parable in which the younger son of a rich man squanders his father’s fortune, suffers deprivation, and ultimately realizes his foolishness and begs his father’s forgiveness. Rodin said about this work, "I have accentuated the swelling of the muscles that express distress...I have exaggerated the distance of the tendons that reveal the outburst of prayer."
Were biblical themes important to Rodin?
The Bible was central to his major project "The Gates of Hell"—and this was a work related to that project!
Wow cool, thank you. The figures certainly seem to express inner human imperfection.
Rodin is showing us the Prodigal Son at his lowest moment. He has lost all his wealth, but he hasn't been reunited with his family and forgiven by his father yet. We might know how the story will end...but he doesn't!
Did Rodin ever do portraits for commission?
Yes, commissioned work was an important part of his income. The Bust of Victor Hugo was commissioned by the French Government, to be placed in the Pantheon of Paris.
How about ordinary patrons?
Later in his career, Rodin produced many portraits of members of high society, such as the Countess de Noailles.
Unfortunately we do not have any of these in our collection.
Rodin also sculpted many people who were close to him, such as the sculptor Camille Claudel, who posed for his sculpture of "La France", which is in this show.
Is "The Thinker" in the Rodin exhibit?
The Thinker is not in the Rodin exhibition. However, "The Thinker" does appear in Rodin's "Gates of Hell", which we have a good amount of material from, in addition to a 2-D reproduction of in the exhibition.
In the "Gates of Hell", "The Thinker" can be found in the center, right above the doors.
How can we say Rodin is a bronze sculptor if he didn’t cast his own bronzes?
I would venture that we say Rodin is a sculptor, perhaps most famous for his bronzes.
Although he didn't cast the work in bronze, he created the clay model and oversaw the creation of the plaster mold that would go on to become the bronze cast. He would be considered the sculptor and the artist, whereas the foundry is the manufacturer. As the artist and designer, he always intended these works to be executed in bronze.
Who is Serapis?
Serapis is a composite god who was worshipped during the Roman period in Egypt, when Egyptian, greek, and Roman cultures all blended in Egypt.
Serapis was a combination of the greek god Zeus, the Egyptian gods Amun and Osiris, and the sacred Egyptian Apis bull.
We very much appreciate your timely and accurate information on this subject. This experience has really enhanced our trip to the museum!
Why is that some of his sculptures without eyes? Did he intentionally leave it out?
I believe the lack of eyes is a reference to antiquity. Many of the ancient sculptures Rodin would have seen would have been missing their eyes either because the inlays had been lost or the paint has come off.
Rodin was known to make such direct references to the sculptures he saw, including removing limbs. Also, he was more concerned with expression than detail.
Are The Gates of Hell at Stanford University the original one?
The simple answer is no, but it is also important to know that Rodin never finished The Gates of Hell himself. Scholars have, however, assembled Rodin's plans to create posthumous casts of the work, like the example at Stanford. The Gates on the Cantor Arts Center (the same Cantors who donated all of the Rodin works in this exhibition) is the fifth cast from the posthumous mold created at the Musée Rodin.
I was wondering why the Eustache de Saint-Pierre has a distinguishable jade tonality to it compared to the other two bronze sculptures.
Each of these statues was cast separately and different chemical treatments to the surface created different patinas.
What exactly is a patina?
"Patina" describes the surface quality of an object made from copper or a copper-based metal (like bronze) formed a chemical reaction. You may be familiar with the light green color that copper turns when exposed to oxygen, this is a form of patina known as verdigris.
In the case of this statue of Eustache de Saint-Pierre, this blue-green color could be achieved by applying cupric nitrate. Rodin was famous for experimenting with surface treatments.
Ok cool thank you!
How did Rodin acquire such prodigious quantities of bronze?
He purchased it. He was commissioned to make many of his works, and used that money to pay for the bronze casts of his works.
So the artist created casts. Are there limitless reproductions that can be produced from the molds?
The artist created the original sculptures and hired foundries to convert those sculptures into bronze casts.
Technically the casts could be made over and over again, though the French Government, to whom Rodin donated his estate upon his death, now control how many are actually produced.