H. de Roos - Rodin´s Approach to Art


3. A harmony parallel to Nature 

But if Nature and Art would be identical, the artist would be superfluous. Rodin knows this as well.

After his Man with the Broken Nose, re-done in marble, was accepted at the Paris Salon in 1875, Rodin started to work on a standing male figure during his last years in Brussels. 

His model was the young Belgian soldier Auguste Neyt. Rodin wanted this sculpture to look as natural and realistic as possible, but when it was exhibited at the Cercle Artistique in Brussels in January 1877, the newspaper L'Etoile Belge raised the suspicion the plaster might have been produced by taking a plaster mould from the life model. 

Although the work was accepted in the Paris Salon as The Age of Bronze, this rumour was intolerable for Rodin, who went to great lengths to prove that his work actually deviated from his model´s appearance. 

For Rodin as well, Art involves stepping back from reality. In the words of Rodin´s contemporary, the painter Paul Cézanne: "Art is a harmony, parallel to Nature". 

Auguste Neyt, Rodin´s model,
photograph by
Gaudenzio Marco
1877, albumen print, 
Ph. 270 Musée Rodin

Age of Bronze, plaster,
 photograph by
Gaudenzio Marco, 
1877, albumen print, 
Ph. 269 Musée Rodin


Jean-Léon Gérôme, Pygmalion and Galatea,
Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum



For the Belgian art historian France Borel, the artist produces a double of his model, his object of desire, so that he can possess it in a magical way. According to Plinius the Elder, the first sculpture would have been created by the daughter of a potter in Sykion. When her beloved was to leave her for a dangerous journey, she made a lamp cast a shadow of the young man against the wall, and drew a line around the silhouette; her father covered the portrait with clay and baked this model in his furnace, together with the other pottery. This way, the girl could preserve her lover´s presence, even after he was gone. 

For Pygmalion, King of Cyprus, who desperately adored the perfect ivory statue he had carved, his sculpture finally became alive. Rodin depicted the theme as well: the artist as the creator of life - but a life that listens to its own law and obeys the particular rules of the medium in which it is produced. 




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