EST. 2009

November 15, 2018

That Physicality

RODIN BELIEVED THAT AN INDIVIDUAL'S CHARACTER was revealed by their physical features. As such, his work deviated from Greek idealism and Baroque beauty, giving way for a much more natural aesthetic considered radical, even controversial, for his time. His The Thinker was fashioned so that every part of the body speaks for the whole. The subject's rigid back and gripping toes exhibit that the Thinker, in Rodin's words, "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."

When a marble version of his sculpture The Kiss went on display in 1913, it caused an uproar and needed to be draped with a sheet. The Age of Bronze was thought to be so lifelike that Rodin was accused of having cast the work from a living model. He made his subsequent sculptures deliberately larger than life since.

Beyond sculpture, Rodin drew in chalk and charcoal, and painted in oils and watercolors. The human body continues to be a prominent subject in these works, carrying the same naturalist style while celebrating character and physicality.

I am intrigued by his female nudes, which feature unconventional poses not usually seen in traditional academic postures. It is said that Rodin preferred his models to move naturally around the studio, where he studied them from different angles, both at rest and in motion.

The resulting drawings carry awkward and erotic touches that feel as fresh today as when they were created in the early 1900s. Outstretched limbs, standing upright, bending forwards or backwards; I imagine the models to have been quite relaxed, and the studio to have been warm and spacious. With limited lines and colors, Rodin masterfully infused his drawings with the same physical presence exuded by his more famous sculptures.

Drawings by Auguste Rodin,