H. de Roos - Rodin´s Approach to Art

8. The creative process 

By visualising different stages of the same movement simultaneously, Rodin hopes to make his sculpture look more realistic than any snap-shot would do. Again he demonstrates that representing Nature is no process of slavish copying. Speaking of his marble sculptures, Rodin once said he only had to “liberate” the figure from the stone block in which it is contained. Still, it needs the imagination, skill and experience of the artist to recognise the core of his subject, its expressive impulse, and translate it into clay, plaster, marble or bronze. 

Rodin is very well aware that the manifestation of his genius is tied to the materials he employs. In his introduction the 1963 Rodin exhibition in the Charles E. Slatkin Galleries, Leo Steinberg discusses the hard edges and flowing surfaces of St. John, as goes as far as to conclude: “Solid or molten – these are the modes of bronze and of plaster, not those of flesh. Henceforth, Rodin´s best sculpture is about the materials of which it is made.” This thesis seems somewhat overcharged, since many of Rodin´s creations were realised both in plaster, bronze and marble – with different plastic effects, of course, but still based on the same design. But unlike the classicist sculptors before him, Rodin does not conceal the steps of the creative process any more, and abandons the illusion of effortless perfection. 

Instead, he allows the traces of his thumb to be preserved, the pattern that rough burlap has left in the wet clay [See picture of Balzac statue, in Jarassé, p. 160]. On the finished bronze casts, the ridges where the moulds have been joined together remain visible, polished marble busts evolve from roughly hewn rocks. For Rodin, Nature is not confined to the outer shape of his model, to the hopes and fears that drive the damned souls he depicts. Nature includes the passion of the artist himself, his relentless search for expression, his struggle with the inert material.



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