'You asked me to tell you in a few lines what I think of Rodin. You know what I think, but to say, I would have a talent that I do not own, write to me, not my job. But what I want to tell you, this is my grande admiration for he is unique in time and great among the greatest. The exhibition of his work will be an event.' Claude Monet
Rodin in his studio, leaning on The Kiss, circa 1888-1889
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
The KissCirca 1882
H. 181.5 cm ; W. 112.5 cm ; D. 117 cm
Commissioned by the French state in 1888, carved between 1888 and 1898. Joined the collections of the Musée du Luxembourg in 1901; transferred to the Musée Rodin in 1919.
He therefore transformed the group into an independent work and exhibited it in 1887. The fluid, smooth modelling, the very dynamic composition and the charming theme made this group an instant success. Since no anecdotal detail identified the lovers, the public called it The Kiss, an abstract title that expressed its universal character very well. The French state commissioned an enlarged version in marble, which Rodin took nearly ten years to deliver. Not until 1898 did he agree to exhibit what he called his “huge knick-knack” as a companion piece to his audacious Balzac , as if The Kiss would make it easier for the public to accept his portrait of the writer.
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Monument to Balzac1898, Musee Rodin, Paris, France, Bronze, H. 270 cm ; W. 120.5 cm ; D. 128 cm
S.1296. Cast by Alexis Rudier, 1935, for the museum collections.
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Rodin, the "Monument to Victor Hugo" and "The Thinker"
H. 26 cm ; W. 32.2 cm
Signed : STEICHEN / MDCCCCII (1902)
In 1901, Steichen’s dream came true when he was allowed to make several portraits of Rodin in his studio. He would have liked to photograph the sculptor posing beside two of his major works, Monument to Victor Hugo and The Thinker , all on the same plate. But lack of space made this impossible. The following year, he therefore showed Rodin a photomontage composed of two different images.The sculptor was very impressed by the result: a profile view of him opposite The Thinker and Victor Hugo .
He laughed at his biographer Judith Clavel’s turn of phrase, “Rodin, between God and the devil”. The photograph was published twice in 1905-06, in the periodical Camera Work, mouthpiece of the American Pictorialist photography movement.The concept behind the picture was highly innovative for the period in which it was taken, since it defied the idea of “realistic illusion”, based on the veracity and accuracy of the content, the underlying canon of 19th-century photography. The Pictorialist image here no longer resembled a conventional photograph and this appealed to Rodin, for montages and assemblages were part of his own working method: “I sketch an arm, a leg, the head. And I stop there… Little by little, the body to which that leg, that arm, that head could be adapted outlines itself in my mind.” (Rodin, 1910).
The Burghers of Calais, commemorating an episode during the Hundred Years' War between England and France, is probably the best and certainly the most successful of Rodin's public monuments. Rodin closely followed the account of the French chronicler Jean Froissart (1333 or 1337–after 1400) stating that six of the principal citizens of Calais were ordered to come out of their besieged city with head and feet bare, ropes around their necks, and the keys of the town and the caste in their hands. They were brought before the English king Edward III (1312–1377), who ordered their beheading. Rodin has portrayed them at the moment of departure from their city led by Eustache de Saint-Pierre, the bearded man in the middle of the group. At his side, Jean d'Aire carries a giant-sized key. Their oversized feet are bare, many have ropes around their necks, and all are in various states of despair, expecting imminent death and unaware that their lives will ultimately be saved by the intercession of the English queen Philippa. The arrangement of the group, with its unorthodox massing and subtle internal rhythms, was not easily settled, and the completed monument, cast in bronze by the Le Blanc-Barbedienne foundry, was not unveiled in Calais until 1895. The Metropolitan Museum's bronze is a lost-wax casting made from the plaster model in the Musée Rodin in Paris.
The torso of the woman in this group is recognizable as that of a model named Adèle Abruzzezzi. Rodin used it repeatedly, and it appears, for example, in a very different context in The Gates of Hell. Eternal Spring is in a lighter vein, however, full of awakening sensuality and implying neither guilt nor punishment to come. The sculpture was extremely popular, and Rodin repeated it often both in marble and in bronze. In 1898, he sold his plaster foundry models with the reproduction rights for this sculpture and its spiritual twin, The Kiss, to the firm of Ferdinand Barbedienne, the commercial foundry. This marble, commissioned from Rodin in 1906 and finished in March 1907, displays the sensuous, veiled quality of carving that creates an impressionistic play of light and shade on the surface of the medium characteristic of the marbles of Rodin's later career.