H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition



1974 photograph of The Thinker as
it was remounted after the bombing

1974 photograph three-quarters 
view showing the corrosion pattern


According to an article by Bruce Christman, Chief Conservator at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland life-time enlarged Thinker cast was blown up by radical protesters in 1970. The explosion destroyed the base and the lower part of the legs, and the remaining sculpture was knocked off of its pedestal. In consultations, Albert Elsen pleaded for further displaying the destroyed piece:

A number of opinions were expressed, ranging from mounting the object as it was to obtaining a new cast from the Rodin Museum. One of the more knowledgeable and reasoned letters came from Professor Albert Elsen, Stanford University, to Sherman Lee, dated June 18, 1971: 

"You ask me what, as a Rodin scholar of over 20 years, I think Rodin's position would have been in this circumstance. In his lifetime he himself would have either repaired the work or supervised a new cast. I must say that it is possible he might have consented to restoration by someone else whose work he approved of. 

But I think the strongest case can be made for your position. As you know, Rodin was the first sculptor in history to take seriously the partial figure as a complete work of art and to accept, court and even welcome chance and accident in the making or subsequent history of his sculptures. I have written about this in my book on the partial figure. While he himself mutilated plaster enlargements, (and the Thinker was an enlargement), it was for the purpose of editing the work of his assistants. He did accept studio accidents that resulted in the battering, breaking and discoloring of works over a long period of time. (The Met has such a torso in plaster obtained directly from Rodin.) In 1900, Rodin actually exhibited a fragmented version of the Thinker and it can be seen in a photo on page 186 of the Descharnes and Chabrun book on Rodin. (The plaster lacks at least the head.)

The Thinker without head and right arm, as refererred to by Elsen.
The photo shows Rodin in his Pavilion at Place dŽAlma, Paris, in 1900.

Detail from the photo left.
Source: Descharnes, p. 186

In Rodin's view, his sculptures were so well made, so beautifully formed and expressive throughout, that like classical fragments, parts of his work could hold up as being complete in themselves. Even in its present, ruined state, your Thinker is still an impressive sculpture and supports Rodin's view. Only Rodin's work by its history and the way it was made can withstand such a tragedy, with any degree of dignity. "

[From: Twenty-five years after the bomb: Maintaining ClevelandŽs Thinker, in: JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 2, Article 2, pp. 173 to 186]





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