Monday, November 12, 2012

My Sculpture Affair

In honor of the birthday of Auguste Rodin, I thought I would take a moment to show you my favorite pieces of his and a little of my thoughts and experiences from the Rodin museum in, has it already been two summers ago I was there?! Time flies.

One of the first pieces at the museum that struck my fancy was The Gates of Hell, a depiction of Dante contemplating the depths of the underworld and the anguish of the sinners doomed to there spend their existence. I of course thoroughly enjoyed my perusal of The Inferno back in high school and so I appreciated the opportunity to inspect this depiction. And who doesn't love another round of "Be the Statue"?

The Gates of Hell, with Samantha as The Thinker

The Thinker is probably one of the best known works by Rodin, but it is not commonly known that he is part of the above larger work. A nice reminder that sometimes we just need to ponder about life. Funny story with this one: we almost skipped it entirely, as Lauri was so anxious to get to the next site, the tomb of Napolean Bonaparte in L'Hôtel des Invalides. I wasn't in any particular mood to trek down the long stretch of path to inspect it up close, nor did I have a desire to battle the hoards of little red-capped school children who at that moment were flocking the base, so I contented myself to hang back with Lauri and admire from a distance as our comrades sallied forth. As we were thus standing, she made mention of her mental rush. "Man, I was just so focused! 'Gotta get to the tomb! Get the people to the tomb!'" I quickly responded, "The universal march." The hilarity of the exchange sunk in afterward and we made quite a scene, cackling uncontrollably as we were. The next hour was punctuated with giggles and guffaws on its recollection. Wit is so much easier in Europe!

The Thinker
The Burghers of Calais was a really touching story for me. During the Hundred Years' War between France and England, the latter laid siege to the port city of Calais. Philip of France ordered the town not to surrender, but failed to lift the siege and so the town was forced by imminent starvation to succumb to the English. Edward of England offered to spare the people if the town fathers would surrender themselves, sacrificing their lives for those of the innocent. This piece depicts them as they go willingly to their demise. It is incredibly fascinating to inspect the various figures, as each has a different nuance of emotion - some are resigned, some hesitant or in shock, still others seem to be mourning the wicked state of humanity. Every time I thought I understood one face, it would seem to change and present a nuance I hadn't before considered. Even now, they each say something different to me.

The Burghers of Calais

Happily, the queen of England learned of the Burghers' plight and convinced her husband to let them go free, valuing their bravery and sacrificial humility. But the figures here do not yet know how the story ends. That, I think, is part of it's greatness.

This one was incredible to me just for sheer craftsmanship. You can really only see it from this side, with the light shining through to outline the figures. That, my friends, is marble. Marble! And yes, it is paper-thin to allow that light through. Simply stunning...or, as Lauri would say in her simple stating-the-facts manner, "Beauty."

Nymphs Playing

This story is touchingly depressing. Camille Claudel began working with Rodin at age 18 and was quite talented. The two had a passionately stormy relationship; long story short, she gave her whole soul to him, but he would not marry her because of a woman named Rose, whose relationship to Rodin is not quite clear. Claudel became pregnant with Rodin's child, but had an abortion which sent her into a downward spiral of depression and other mental illness until she was put in an assylum. L'Age Mûr depicts Claudel as "l'implorante," begging the man she loves to stay with her whilst he is being whisked away by Rose, a grisly specter reminiscent of a siren. Though she never knew the love she longed for, she went on to create some of the most well-known and romantic pieces of the period, which for a time were attributed to Rodin, the very cause of her anguish.

L'Age Mûr

I read somewhere that Rodin believed that the emotion of the entire body could be depicted through the hands alone. I wonder if he really thought that, or if it was indeed Camille Claudel, as it is likely that it was she who supplied the hands and feet for most of his sculptures. Either way, from works like this one, I am inclined to believe it.

Cathedral Hands

The Waltz

Camille Claudel knew the face of Rodin so well that she was able to create this from memory. Compared to Wikipedia's photo, I'd say she did rather well indeed.

Bust of Auguste Rodin
There you have it - some of my Rodin highlights, a touch of humor, intrigue, and romance. Thank goodness for beauty in the world.

No comments: