Monday, February 20, 2012

Auguste Rodin

Rodin is one of my inspirations that I would not have wanted to meet, necessarily. It was definitely his work that has inspired me since I was a young man just learning about artists and art history. The way that he treated his wife Rose and his protege Camille Claudel was downright appalling at times. But then again, he did stand up to his critics and he did believe in what he was doing, even when others couldn't see his vision, so for that I will definitely give him his due.

So, what is it about his work, his sculptures that does it for me? Well, for starters there is a story in each of his busts, figures and monuments that go past just a client sitting for a portrait. There is true anguish is some figures that most artists can only dream about portraying. One doesn't necessarily have to know the details behind the story of the Burghers of Calais to get an idea of just what has transpired or what is coming, although it can only help. There is true anguish in their cowardice and true nobility in the young man who by all counts shouldn't know any better. Even in his beautiful and most times sensual and erotic depictions of women there is something beyond just a pretty face. These images, these forms are not just a lustful old man expressing a stereotype, they are of a man who sees the very nature of man and woman, at times ugly and at times serenely beautiful. Fluid is a word that comes to mind.

At one time, at least, Rodin was accused of casting from life, which was a big no no at the time, so he did not work in exact measurements after that. Instead, he made his figures monumental or smaller in scale. He could and did prove to his critics and accusers that he was a master at what he did. His hands and feet, although accurately detailed, became larger, bulky, stylized. Fantastic, is what I say. For someone like myself who has always struggled with drawing hands and feet, this was a godsend. Rodin taught me a lesson in knowing one's anatomy and then being able to break those rules a bit through exaggeration. Hands and feet became characters in their own right with their own stories of expression.

And Rodin had a biting sense of humor, as well. The story behind one of his statues of Honore Balzac is downright hilarious. I won't repeat it here, but let it be known that is is a bit vulgar.

Whatever else has been said about the man, he was passionate about sculpture. He lived and breathed clay, marble and bronze. And for that he earns a place in my Hall of Fame.

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