Introduction & Background:The Lovers...
It would be impossible to embark on, however brief, an introduction to Auguste Rodin (Fig 1), The soi-disant “Father of Modern Sculpture", wihout including his erstwhile, and sadly neglected companion in sculpture, muse and lover, Camille Claudel (Fig 2) and of course, his other life-long companion: Rose Beuret, but more of her later. Camille was born in 1864, (and her biography was filmed by director Bruno Nuytten with Isabelle Adjani portraying Camille Claudel and Gérard Depardieu as Rodin in 1988), whilst Auguste, (never the subject of a movie in his own right), was born in 1840, making him 24 years older than Camille, and of course, being male, in that paternalistically male-dominated Victorian era society, meant that he had more than the lion's share of decision-making, not to mention the fame and prestige garnered by both their efforts.
Rodin’s Early Life
Lets quickly sketch in the fairly nondescript details of Rodins early years: He was born François-Auguste-René Rodin in Paris in 1840. The school he went to didn’t take into account his “Short-sightedness” and he therefore achieved desultory results and didn’t pass at a sufficiently high level to pass into the nearest “École des Beaux-Arts” that he was aiming for. He “finished” his education gaining a “Medal” for his drawings, but, failing reasonable recognition, and, after entering a monastic life but without taking the vows when he was about 22yrs old, was advised to leave by the leader of the community to take up his sculpture again.. which he did whilst working at fairly menial tasks for about 2 decades. By now he was almost 40....
Camille, a very gifted sculptress, (please see her: “The Prayer” (Fig 7, 1889) and “Maturity” (Fig 8, circa. 1902) below), after destroying a certain amount of her oeuvre in frustration at the glass ceilings and frowns from the narrow-minded denizens of e nineteenth century, ended up being “imprisoned” for 30 years in an asylum near Avignon, mostly due to both her famous right-wing catholic brother and her mother who were so ashamed of her "misbehaviors", (acting like a liberated woman in a judgemental patriarchal society where woman ought to know their place...), that they had her committed to a mental institution where she languished until she died 30 years later.. After 22 years of incarceration, she wrote: “I live in a world that is so curious, so strange....of the dream which was my life, this... is the nightmare.”, please see also Fig 9, a film still of Isabelle Adjani in the role of Camille below.
Camille Claudel: an overview...
Her life's work, was, to a certain extent posthumously recognised for it’s own worth rather than as a mere adjunct to the great: Rodin!... The probable truth being that Camille often indicated possibilities to Rodin that he may otherwise have missed. Camille was first taken under a certain M. Boucher’s wing and assimilated some of his pragmatism and favourable regard to a limited extent for the classical tradition; but neither Alfred Boucher nor Camille were content with their lot and explored, each in their own way a personal dream... he is probably best known for his bronze work entitled Au But! (see fig 10, below), Trans: “au but” = “To The End”(the word end can be:end=goal / target).
Alfred Boucher: Camille Claudel’s First Sculptor Master....
As a result of the success of Au But!(see Fig 10), following the Prix de Salon of 1886, the Boucher was commissioned to complete a larger version for the Luxemburg Gardens. Boucher was also a philanthropist. As well as teaching many young sculptors including Claudel, Boucher wanted to help those who had struggled like he had, so, with Paul DuBois, he created what was to become known as “La Ruche: The Beehive” The Beehive was created using an ex- wine pavilion used by the designer of the famous Parisian tower at the 1900 Expo. The building was converted into 24 wedge shaped studios that were not much more than hovels at a cost of a touch under 40 francs per term, that grew into 140, and were a haven for struggling artists coming to Paris including Leger, Chagall (see fig 12), (who later found some of his work in America after abandoning his little room full of his works and voyaging to Russia), Soutines and Archipenko to name but few of those who, it must be said, passed through and out again with rapidity
after discovering it’s .not very well furbished sparsity. Alfred Boucher had also spent two years or so in Italy, (Florence and Rome), and although he worked competently he wasn’t the most outstanding sculpture of his day, even a “Painter”, DegaS, seemed to infuse more life, according to some, into his little “danseuses” see Fig 12 ” Working within various subject matters including portrait busts, monuments and classical, allegorical work...Please see Fig 6, above as an example of his “classical”influences from Italy almost hinting at Buonarotti’s reclining figures.... Boucher ended up gaining the Legion D’Honneur and was so excited he couldn’t decide which side of his chest to wear it...(I believe he ended up with it in the centre!).
Decorative Arts & Atelier Work
Rodin, meanwhile, having worked in various unpromising posts for a while also worked for, and with, A. E Carrier-Belleuse ( a sculptor b1824-d1896), for whom he produced decorative pieces mostly... that he later disowned as "merely to earn a living" (to paraphrase), but did learn how to run a studio.... (Rodin’s first real piece was a bust of Jean-Baptiste Rodin. his father.) Rodin was even early on, in a modest way, an innovator, presaging his later revolutionary work as he brandished his sculpting fingers and tools, with a blatent disregard for the classical acme of sculpture that was embodied in the simply copying of the Graeco-Roman format so beloved of academicians,
A Quiet Revolution: “The Age Of Bronze” (A Fake?)
Although both the arbiters of “good taste” in G F Watts’ England and the severe anti-impressionists in Rodin's France, at the time, were being eroded by the soon to be dominant “Impressionists” in France and England, The Pre-Raphaelites” mostly in The UK, and forays by various independant artists here and there, Rodin, whilst paying lip-service with his sculpture, didn’t really raise a revolutionary ” flag “in the same way as many contemporaries and quietly worked away at his job letting his pieces speak for him without the blatant “Salon Des Refuses”/“Société anonyme des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs” alternative expositions and public debates... By beavering away at his early subjects to reveal a rough and scintillating presence that truly reflected a new light upon sculpture, both metaphorically and literally, especially with his first piece, signalling his return to the sculpting world, “The Age of Bronze”, (see foreground statue in Fig 13), there was a certain furour due to certain members of the French art world believing that he had cast rather than sculpted it... because of this insult to himself as a sculptor he would sculpt in a size, larger or smaller than life to allay all possibility of a like accusation again. This was one reason for the size of the figures that were part of his “Gateway to Hell”(Fig 15, below)
The Impressionist movement had now, so famously, been given their name (by a mere reporter (Louis Leroy)writing of them disparagingly in the: in the “Charivari”), at that antidote to the "Paris Salon", laid on by Messrs. Monet, Renoir, Pisarro and others. This exhibition, through the auspices of a sort of "limited company" The: formed by Pisarro & Monet etc, joined together about 30 artists after many of them had been rejected year after year by French academicians in favour of adherents to the tried and tested classical style. The exhibition included a singular, in all senses of the term., lady: Mme Berthe Morisot, (see her “Reading” in Fig 5, above). This exhibition initially attracted much ridicule to their work in their “off-salon” exposure of their revolutionary paintings , (influenced in part by the then, current scientific advancements in the knowledge of optics and light frequencies), including that famous article in The: "Charivari" which gave a name to their genre: "Impressionism" (coined from the title of Monet's now very famous:"Impressions de Soleil Levant" see Fig 4, above.) As mentioned very briefly, earlier, various artists had exhibited their work at a “Salon des Refusés” after being rejected by that year’s Salon Jury... As early as 1863, Manet had decided to exhibit “Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” in that year’s Salon des Refusés creating not a few shockwaves...(see here: ) after about 10-12 years of impressionism, there followed Seurat's, Société des Artistes Indépendants promoting "Neo-Impressionism" that followed in Pisarro & Monets footsteps..So, having now left the “Impressionists” making serious inroads on the Art World , and having very very sketchily set the scene or backdrop to Rodins rejoining the world of artists and designers in Paris’s pre turn of the century broiling pot of art.. revolutionary and otherwise, after being in a sort of limbo for 20 years or so, what did Rodin bring to this feast?
Rodins Contribution to the late 19th Century Art Feast...
Light! Light reflected from every facet of his sculptures... light that brought to life busts and figures in a way not seen before... Light in the eye’s of those inspired by his passionate bringing into existence reflections of his life and love’s.... Rodin had a Mistress. This mistress Rose Beurat, whom he met at the same time tha Camilled was born..., was a fairly jealous person, protective, naturally, of her relationship with a sculptor who was charismatic and rapidly finding more and more favour amongst his peers and the Art World in general. There is a rumour of an attempt on Camille by Rose but as yet, I have found no substantiation... Rodin now had 2 muses... and goddesses can be very jealous.
The last 20% of the nineteenth century was probably Rodin’s most prolific and most tempestuous period leading into the new century and the War to end all Wars....
After the initial reception of “The Age Of Bronze” Rodin recieved,, slowly but surely, as his folio of work grew, more and more comissions. Some of the most famous are illustrated and annotated above in Figs 13-17. A significant exception is his “Le Baiser” or: “The Kiss”
A Rodinesque Tale
The Kiss, (The Kiss is currently on loan from the ”Tate British” in London to the Edinburgh National Galleries), depicts the passionate & adulterous embrace of Paolo Malatesta and his brother's wife Francesca da Rimini, characters in Dante's 'The Divine Comedy'(the major theme for “The Gateway to Hell”), It was a theme Rodin had developed before the French government commisioned him to create a showpiece (of “The Kiss”) for the great exhibition of 1889. Rodin, in fact, missed the deadline and it gathered dust for nine years. When Rodin did eventually show The Kiss, he got two new commissions - one from England, more of this one below... and one from Copenhagen. The French sculptor had originally used the image as part of The Gates of Hell, a monumental work that preoccupied him for almost half his life. Edward Perry Warren, ( the "mad millionaire" originally: Bostonian), who with his companion John Marshall, lived in Lewes, commissioned a copy of”The Kiss” for £1,000, (20,000 French Francs), in 1900...when The Kiss finally arrived, in 1904, it was placed in the stables.. nobody is sure why... The statue made a brief appearance in the town of Lewes but shortly afterwards soldiers were billeted in the town hall that housed it, at the start of the war and it was hastily draped in a tarpaulin so that it would not "over-excite" the troops. After Warren's death in 1928, The Kiss was put up for auction but failed to attract its asking price. In 1952, the Tate Gallery, now the “Tate British”, launched a public appeal to buy the sculpture for the nation for the bargain price of £7,500. The Kiss, is now worth approx £10million.
Many of Rodins works have “Histories” with various dubious parts and often some scandal or other attached.... If it hasn’t... it probably isn’t a “Rodin”...
Pedal to the Medal....
Dur ing the last 20 years of the century, (remember the medal he won as a young student for drawing...), Rodin renewed his passion for drawing and painting, but, naturally, after all his experiences, with a new style. These were brighter and more fluid than his previous ones, and used more watercolour techniques to draw his ever-preferred lady models. Yellow and pink were much in evidence in the prolific output that Rodin pencilled and painted with his strong outlines and delicate washes. Some of these drawings made their way into the pages of commisioned copies of poets he liked eg: Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs Du Mal”
The Japanese actress Hanako, whom Rodin met in Marseilles in 1906, is the subject of Fig 19 opposite, Fascinated by the expressivity of her face, the sculptor persuaded her to come and pose for him. He modelled 58 sculptures of Hanako, as well as a large number of drawings, made in a single sitting, during which he sought to capture her exceptional energy on his sheets of paper. Rodin was struck like most folk, by the powerful muscles of a dancer’s well-trained body. “She can stand as long as she wants on one leg, while lifting the other in front of her at a right angle!”
“Les Bourgeois de Calais” , (see Fig 14), was a public monument commissioned by Calais Town Council. During the towns history, Six humans (statues) were picked to represent the town of Calais as a symbol of surrender to the English during the Hundred Years War with ropes around their necks and symbolic keys to the town... The English King had them executed at the time... This commission took 10 years to finish.... Rodin had several commisions to keep him busy as his fame, during his own lifetime, fuelled his self-perception of correctness which affected his and Camille’s relationship with thye anguished and loyal Rose Beuret, constantly hovering in the background until Camille couldn’t support the non-menage a trois any longer and forced Rodin’s hand to decide between her and Rose. Having perceived that Rose would always remain, Ms Claudel went off to assert her own career and not simply sacrifice herself for an ungrateful man who turned out to be, despite his abilities, a man like so many others... no lofty morals equal to his genius, no ethics to set him apart from his admirers amongst the typical Victorian gentry and bourgeoisie....
Camille now feverishly worked at her art, realising all the time that had been sacrificed for a non-existant true love.... but although there were some excellent pieces in her attempts to carve a reputation for herself, doing it alone, with the pressure of her disapproving relations; in particular her Catholic brother with his political career and reputation at stake.. even if only indirectly and her Mother, were a very different proposition from being within the public protection of someone like Rodin and therefore tolerated for the great man’s sake..... Camille knew this and felt it as yet one more facet of the oppression that women suffered at the hands of the status quo.. Fig 20(”La Femme accroupie”) shows a figure that Rodin may not have done without Camilles aid as it has so much of the pressure that Camille rather than Auguste felt as part of their career. Having had a one man show with very mixed responses from the attendees and no pieces sold at the event, Camille retreated into herself and retired iunto her atelier..if you could call what she could afford with such a title... and declined bit by bit into despair and paranoia... but a very real paranoia as the eyes showed as she was hauled away to her last 2 resting places of imprisonnement...
And Rodin?... He garnered more and more honours as he toed the party line and protested nothing but love and care for the declining Camille... an easy ploy to please the followers he had and avoid the public guilt of actually rejecting Camille and her years of self-sacrifice and thus, I’m sure, contributing greatly to her demise both as a sculptress and literally.... Rodin, at the outset of the First £World War, gave a gift of 18 pieces to England via the Victoria and Albert Museum as beneficiaries, (see Figs 16-17), and later, having moved into the Hotel Biron bequeathed the hotel and his sculptures in 3 lots, to the french government if they consacrated the Hotel as a Museum to house and honour his works... and so it was that in 1917 The Musee Rodin came into existence and has been encroached upon by the city of Paris and surrounded but remains a testament to two tragic souls and a ghostlike third who tried to gain some measure of love in this world and illuminated, with their passion and their sculptures, the ordinary lives of those less gifted, who like them, were simply caught in Balzac’s “Comedie Humaine” with all the ills that flesh is heir to, with but a small time to make sense of their world and their needs. Did Rodin have a bad influence on Camille or was he benign, was Camille too demanding or Rose too ..... we shall never know in depth, truly.. but we are blessed with the fruit of their story and the evidence of their passion in their Art.
This little essay of mine is merely one person’s view of history and events... you must make of them what you will having researched for yourselves, a journey which, when undertaken for yourself, in your own way, will yield rich rewards in terms of knowledge gained, ideas stimulated and physical journeys made ...with encounters along the way that are not simply part of mere research to write a paper... but are invaluable parts of your own life that may, more than you think, serve to inspire the lives of others... and this latter, most especially if you are passionate about your chosen subject and breathe it in...
VIA: National Art Library Rodin
Rodin: The Shape of Genius (Hardback) Published by Yale University Press, United States, 1996 ISBN 10: 0300064985 / ISBN 13: 9780300064988
Auguste Rodin(Dover Fine Art, History of Art) Rilke, Rainer Maria Published by Dover Publications (2006-04-14) ISBN 10: 0486447200 / ISBN 13: 9780486447209
Gates to Hell
David Hickmet: website: Hickmet Fine Arts
Gallery Eighty Five, 85a Portobello Road, London W11 2QB Tel: 0 (+44) 797 185 0405 - Office: 0 (+44) 1342 841508 email: email@example.com
Mr David Hickmet kindly supplied the phot of Alfred Boucher’s Statue: “Au But” (Fig 10 in the text)
PARIS: Musée Rodin 79 Rue de Varenne (to write: 21, boulevard des Invalides, 75007 PARIS FRANCE)
Web Musee RodinTel: E-mail:
(Text from the Museum website):
The mansion that now houses the Musée Rodin was built in the Rue de Varenne, Paris, between 1727 and 1737, for the wealthy financier Abraham Peyrenc de Moras (1686-1732). The project, eventually overseen by Jean Aubert, Architect to the King, is a shining example of the rocaille architecture that was fashionable at this time. Constructed on the outer limits of Paris, it was both a town house and a country residence. Abraham Peyrenc de Moras died in 1732, before his new home, notably the interior decoration on the first floor, was completed. First opened to the public on 4 August 1919, the Musée Rodin was housed in a mansion, formerly called the Hôtel Peyrenc de Moras. Now known as the Hôtel Biron, it was built in the Rue de Varenne, Paris, between 1727 and 1732. Nearly 300 works from Rodin’s collection are on view in this mansion designed along the lines of classical architecture and adorned with rocaille decoration.
MEUDON: Musée Rodin (Atelier -Maison: 19, avenue Auguste Rodin - 92190) Web: Musee Rodin Tel: E-mail:
(Text from the Museum website)
Built on the heights of Meudon, the Villa des Brillants is a modest-looking, Louis XIII-style house in brick and stone, which Auguste Rodin purchased at an auction sale on 19 December 1895. It was a suitable environment in which to pursue his career as an artist. In 1900, about 50 people, including sculptor’s assistants, workers and casters, were employed here by Rodin and, although he continued to go to his Parisian studios every day, especially the one at the Dépôt des Marbres, his most essential creative work was done in Meudon. His property here soon became an inevitable port of call for an endless stream of friends, sitters, patrons and celebrities from France and abroad. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who was employed as Rodin’s private secretary, lived on the premises from 1905: “The effect of this vast hall filled with light, where all these dazzling white sculptures seem to gaze out at you from behind high glass doors, like creatures in an aquarium, is extremely powerful. It makes a huge, a tremendous impression…”
(letter from Rilke to his wife Clara, 2 September 1902).
PARIS: MUSEE D'ORSAY (Paris: 62, rue de Lille, 75343 Paris Cedex 07-France)
Discover the museum via video (3m:21secs)
Website: Musée d'Orsay Tel:+33 (0)1 40 49 48 14 E-mail: www.musee-orsay.fr/en/info/con…
MUSEE ORANGERIE www.musee-orangerie.fr/
MUSEE HEBERT www.musee-orsay.fr/en/info/mus…
LONDON: British Museum ( Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG )
Website: British Museum Tel: +44 (0)20 73238299 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Text from the Museum website):
Origins of the British Museum
The origins of the British Museum lie in the will of the physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753).The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all 'studious and curious persons'. Over his lifetime, Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects which he wanted to be preserved intact after his death. So he bequeathed the whole collection to King George II for the nation in return for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs.The gift was accepted and on 7 June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the British Museum.The founding collections largely consisted of books, manuscripts and natural specimens with some antiquities (including coins and medals, prints and drawings) and ethnographic material. In 1757 King George II donated the 'Old Royal Library' of the sovereigns of England and with it the privilege of copyright receipt.The British Museum opened to the public on 15 January 1759 . It was first housed in a seventeenth-century mansion, Montagu House, in Bloomsbury on the site of today's building. Entry was free and given to ‘all studious and curious Persons’.With the exception of two World Wars, the Museum has remained open ever since, gradually increasing its opening hours and moving from an attendance of 5,000 per year to today's 6 million.
LONDON: Victoria & Albert Museum( Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL)
Origins of the V&A Museum:
Website:Victoria & Albert Museum Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 2000 E-mail:email@example.com
National Art Library (V&A)National Art Libray
And to finish, a few thoughts from the sculptor himself....
Nature: "To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature”
Discovery: "I invent nothing, I rediscover"
Patience: "Patience is also a form of action"
Art: "Art is actually nothing more than a manifestation of lust, which only arises from the potency to love."
When asked how he made his statues: "I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don't need"
Using your time wisely: "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely”
Auguste Rodin: 1840-1917
Written by Peter-The-Knotter for the Art History ProjectJoin the Project
| AH Project Team