Pamplin Media Group – Rodin Exhibition at the Portland Art Museum

The bronze of the French sculptor is less well known than “Le Penseur” and “Le Baiser”.


Everyone knows Rodin’s “The Thinker” or his equally naked couple struggling in “The Kiss”. They have been used in advertisements to replace the art itself, and they exist as holiday memorabilia on shelves around the world.

But Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was more than a great expressive worker of clay, as shown in the exhibition “Rodin: The Human Experience, Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections” at the Portland Art Museum, presented until April. 16.

Rodin bridged the worlds of classical and romantic sculpture, was a formative modernist, and can even be considered a bit post-modernist.

“He was the Jeff Koons of his day,” curator Judith Sobol told the Portland Tribune. This means that he had a big ego – from his childhood he wanted to be the most famous artist in the world – and was happy to take orders and make reproductions for the highest bidder, and even to control the means of. production long after his death.

If the dates of some of the 52 bronzes in this exhibition leave you perplexed – for example “Monumental torso of the walking man” from 1985 – you should know that before his death, he bequeathed the rights to his work to the French government, which runs the official Rodin Museum in Paris. She has the right to cast each bronze coin up to 12 times and sell them, at different scales. Collectors, the Cantors, bought their Rodins at the Rodin Museum.

COURTESY: PORTLAND ART MUSEUM - One of the first exhibits is a small version or model of “The Gates of Hell”. Rodin was commissioned to make the decorative doors for a new art museum, but the government changed its mind and built the Gare d’Orsay instead. (Today it is the Musée d’Orsay.)

Tortured figures write all over the doors, looked down on by a mini “Thinker” and on the top of the door frame are three ghosts. He took many of his favorite pieces from the doors and recast them into stand-alone works. So these ghosts become “Three Shades”, which is a few meters away.

“The ‘Shadows’ show the influence of Michelangelo, but he went beyond and took one of the heads, which you see nearby, and there is nothing melancholy about it as it is at an angle different, she doesn’t look down, ”Sobol said.

The coins were precious. Rodin reused his hands, heads and limbs all the time, grafting them onto other bodies like a hero of Mary Shelley.

Sobol says that Rodin gave the parts to his assistants who made the plaster casts and who chose from among the 40 foundries in the Paris region.

Rodin produced 328 editions of “Le Baiser” during his lifetime and sold them throughout Europe.

Pieces such as “The Torso of a Walking Man” came from Rodin as a result of archaeological finds at the time, when broken Greek and Roman statues were constantly being unearthed. In the Romantic tradition, incomplete works were powerful because they stimulated the imagination to complete them.

“He realized that a piece could still move him even though she didn’t have all the parts of her body,” Sobol explains. “He wanted to see how far you could reduce a figure and that could still give you emotional communication and work like a sculpture.”

Hand surgeons have studied some of the sculpted hands he made for their anatomy. Rodin considered the artist to be the Creator. “The Hand of God” is in the show.

“He put so much in the hand,” says Sobol. “His pieces have never been smaller than the hand.”

His sculptures of his hero, the novelist Balzac, show a middle-aged manly body with a beer belly. Sometimes he was a fearless realist.

“Degas was interested in the life of the dancer, Rodin was more interested in the body of the dancer”, explains Sobol.

Her figure “Iris, Messenger of the Gods” is the headless naked body of a woman, probably based on a cancan dancer. She could be a modern woman doing yoga.

“It’s this very exuberant sex piece, as she swings her leg, you can see her genitals,” Sobol says. “It’s one of my favorite pieces because he lived around the time of the advent of cinema and the automobile, and he used these images as a means to inform his own work on the movement.”

Run, don’t walk towards this spectacle.

WITH THE AUTHORIZATION OF THE PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART - “Trois Nuances”


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Reggie S. Williams

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