Indepth Arts News: |
"RODIN: Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection"
2000-01-20 until 2000-03-26
Dayton Art Institute
USA United States of America
The Dayton Art Institute is honored to host a selection of 71 sculptures by the great French sculptor,
Auguste Rodin. Drawn from the prestigious Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection, located in Los Angeles and estimated to be the
worlds largest private collection of Rodin sculptures, these works represent many of Rodins most beloved sculptures, including the
famous Thinker. Also included are works from his famous Gates of Hell, Burghers of Calais, Monument to HonorČ de Balzac and
any number of portraits and group figures, including a reduction of The Age of Bronze.
At the height of his career, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was considered to be the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. His genius
lay in his ability to liberate both his subject matter and his style from 19th century artistic conventions through a highly personal
sense of expression and a willingness to accept change. No longer bound by the usual time-honored traditions of the allegory in the
service of the State or the Church, Rodin found himself on the threshold of the modern age.
Yet, his beginnings were far from privileged or auspicious. His attempts to gain admittance
to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts were refused three times and for several years, he worked as an
ornamental mason with the decorative sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. But in 1875,
at the age of 35, Rodin traveled to Italy where he was able to study the works of the great
High Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, who was for Rodin his greatest influence and
mentor. This was, in fact, the key to unlocking Rodins tremendous talent and potential.
Rodins first major work, The Age of Bronze, exhibited in 1878, was inspired directly by
Michelangelos Slaves, which Rodin would have seen both in the Louvre in Paris and in the
Accademia in Florence. Freestanding, nude, without classical trappings or weapons,
unidealized and blatantly human, Rodins sculpture was ridiculed by contemporary critics
for just those qualities; one even accused him of having cast the statue from a live model,
noting that the model was probably a common laborer. In fact, it was a representation of a
Belgian soldier. Yet despite his critics harsh derision, Rodins forays into such new realism
and naturalism were quickly drawing attention and would soon gain for him a public acclaim
and critical success not seen by a living sculptor since the Renaissance.
By 1880, his reputation was so well established that he received a State commission for a
bronze doorway to grace a newly proposed Museum of Decorative Arts, which sadly was
never built. Rodin loosely based his doorway on a High Renaissance masterpiece by
Lorenzo Ghiberti, the so-called Gates of Paradise of the Baptisty in Florence. Taking
thematic inspiration from Michelangeos Last Judgement and from works by the contemporary French artist and illustrator Gustave
DorČ, Rodin entitled this great doorway, The Gates of Hell. Although never completed during his lifetime, the project took more
than 20 years of planning and produced some 200 study figures of great intensity and emotion, including the famed Thinker,
Falling Man and The Kiss.
In 1884, Rodin was awarded another important commission, a sculptural group
commemorating an event from the Hundred Years War in 1347, when following an 11-
month siege, six leading citizens from Calais handed themselves over to the English in
exchange for the safety of the citizenry of their city. Rodin worked on The Burghers of
Calais for four years. In this tribute to the bravery of six men, Rodin dared to show the
extreme suffering and fear of these civic leaders, itself a brave departure from an emphasis
upon heroism and glory usually deemed acceptable for such public monuments.
Among the many other public commissions he received during his long life, his Monument
to Balzac was probably the most important to him personally, while ironically the source of
public scandal and critical outrage. Of this magnificent and powerful monument, Rodin said
(it was) the sum of my entire life. Created by Rodin 40 years after the death of the famous
French author, the sculpture was the product of nearly 50 studies, some based on Balzacs
actual appearance, others more abstract and artistic. The finished model, presented to the
public in 1898 was so ridiculed that Rodin did not cast the final sculpture in bronze before
Yet, despite the difficulties Rodin encountered with critics and the public, by 1900, he had
become the most important living sculptor in the world. He was photographed by the best
photographers of the time (such as the American Edward Steichen), moved in the circles of
European nobility and given an entire pavilion at the Paris Worlds Exposition. In 1916, a
year before his death, Rodin donated his entire estate to the French government. Today, those
works can be seen at the Hotel Biron where he lived the final nine years of his long and highly productive life.