H. de Roos - Rodin´s Approach to Art

7. The suggestion of movement 

Rodin´s referral to Barye points to a key feature in Rodin´s own work. In his conversations with Gsell, the sculptor explains how his work John the Baptist suggests movement to the spectator: 

"Now, the illusion of life is obtained in our art by good modelling and by movement.(..)
"Note, first, that movement is the transition from one attitude to another. (...) 
"You have certainly read in Ovid how Daphne was transformed into a bay-tree and Procne into a swallow. (...) In each of them one still sees the woman which will cease to be and the tree or birds which she will become.
"It is, in short, a metamorphosis of this kind that the painter or the sculptor effects in giving movement to his personages. He represents the transition from one pose to another - he indicates how insensibly the first glides into the second. In his work we still see a part of what was and we discover a part of what is to be. (...)
"Now, for example, while my Saint John is represented with both feet on the ground, it is probable that an instantaneous photograph from a model making the same movement would show the back feet already raised and carried forward to the other. Or else, on the contrary, the front feet would not yet be on the ground if the back leg occupied in the photography the same positions as in my statue.


John the Baptist, 
Musée d´Orsay.
Photo: William Allen 


"Now it is exactly for that reason that this model photographed would present the odd appearance of a man suddenly stricken with paralysis and petrified in his pose (..)
"If, in fact, in instantaneous photographs, the figures, though taken while moving, seem duddenly fixed in mid-air, it is because, all parts of the body being reproduced exactly at the same twentieth or fortieth of a seconds, there is no progressive development of movement as there is in art. (...)
"It is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of a movement which takes several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly suspended.

  Paul Gsell, Rodin on Art and Artistst, Dover Publications, New York, p. 32ff.



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