H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition


Does The R.O.M. Exhibition Really Show Historical Foundry Techniques?

According to Dr Schaff at the Toronto symposium, the Venice exhibition (1 Aug. - 7 Nov. 1999) at the Church St. Stae, with its 100 foot high ceiling and marble walls, indeed had not provided the ideal context to display the mostly small-sized plasters. The exhibition at the R.O.M. places the all exhibited pieces in a carefully designed and lighted environment, links all objects throught an educative concept and explains the central role of foundry plasters in Rodinīs way of working.

To defer these plasters as "purported physical evidence of 19th century casting technique" (Milroy) provokes but not answers the question if Rodin himself ever employed them - or let them be used - in the bronze casting of his sculptures while he was still alive and could oversee the whole process, or if Antoinette Romain and Gary Arseneau - being of one opinion here, for a change - are right to assume these objects were only produced in the 1950īs.

Another question that Milroy fails to follow up is if the R.O.M. exhibition really explains much about the historical techniques used in Rodinīs time. As also criticized by the Gruppo Mondiale, the exhibition shows us a video about the lost wax process and a modern silicon mould of the Torso Of The Walking Man, but transports little of the "feel" of the sometimes dramatic casting processes, as described by Jean-René Carričre, who witnessed the pouring of the bronze for an monumental Thinker cast at the Rudier Foundry in the Rue de Saintonge, together with his father and Rodin [Grunfeld, p. 520].

But again, this critique would not pertain to the R.O.M. exhibition only: the display at the Cantor Visual Center in Stanford apparently has the same weak point:

Rodin at the Cantor Center-Stanford University

Although most of the labels were interesting and well thought-out, there was one vitrine purporting to deal with technique that left me baffled. Instead of explaining how Rodin actually realized his pieces in bronze, which would have been interesting, it illustrated a step-by-step version of a much more modern bronze-casting method, using a sample figurine from the "Gates".

If it had explained that this is how it's done today it would have been better, but it left the erroneous impression that synthetic rubber molds and ceramic shell casting (which weren't developed until after World War II) were this 19th century Parisian's methods of choice. But I'm fairly sure he was actually limited to the use of rigid plaster piece-molds and plaster-based
investment casting (they don't call it "plaster of Paris" for nothing; the city is built on a gypsum deposit which fueled the development of these techniques.)

[From: Andrew Werby (andrew@computersculpture.com), Rodin at the Cantor Center-Stanford University. Newsgroups:alt.sculpture Date:2001-03-04 14:26:14 PST]

As a conclusion to this chapter, we may say that only a minority of the exhibited plasters looks affected by casting processes - the very processes the exhibition intends to show and explain. The question, if such pieces should be displayed at all, is open to discussion and the answer will vary with taste and the extent curators may identify with Rodinīs own attitude towards accidents. But the fact the Cleveland Museum has continued to display a completely ruined Thinker cast over decades, backed by Albert Elsenīs personal advice, without ever being faced with scorn and public scandal, suggests the indignant protest against the state of the MacLaren plasters is not unbiased and impartial.




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