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by Kathy Zimmerer

(Tasende Gallery, West Hollywood) A treat is in store for Auguste Rodin fans in the form of this exhibit of posthumously cast bronze figures organized in conjunction with the Musée Rodin in Paris. Of eighteen works on display there are several large pieces from major commissions as well as figures and fragments from his notorious and powerful The Gates of Hell.

From 1880 until his death in 1917 Rodin struggled with the complexities of designing the monumental door for the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, and never did finish it. From it, however, he derived some of the greatest figurative works of the century: Crouching Woman, The Prodigal Son, The Kiss, and The Thinker. In The Gates of Hell Rodin encapsulated the whole gamut of human emotion, and the independent, enlarged figures extracted from his original design hold up brilliantly.

In Study for Falling Man Rodin used a fluid, supple motion to arch the figure’s back, throwing the body into a dramatic curve. His understanding of anatomy echoes that of Michelangelo, whose works enthralled Rodin, as he wrote: “My liberation from academism was effected by Michelangelo.”

Rodin’s innate ability to capture the essence of emotion in a figure’s pose and musculature is also revealed in the sculpture Adolescent in Despair. The thin body of a teenage boy reaches in vain for the future. The entire body stretches upward, all the muscles beautifully choreographed in a dance of anguish.

Vitality is apparent in even the duller commissions, such as the two monuments to the painters Claude Lorraine and Bastien-Lepage. The two artists are portrayed as men of action, striding about with palettes in hand, ready to record the beauty of nature.

"Pallas au Casque [Pallas with
Helmet]," bronze, 1896.
Photo courtesy the
Musée Rodin, Paris.

"Cybèle," bronze, 1905.
Photo courtesy the
Musée Rodin, Paris.

"Buste Colossal de Saint Jean
Baptiste," bronze, 1878-99.
Photo courtesy the
Musée Rodin, Paris.

"Méditation Dite de la
Porte," bronze, 1883-85.
Photo courtesy the
Musée Rodin, Paris.
The Colossal Bust of Saint John the Baptist is a stirring combination of strength, sprituality and wisdom. The saint’s features and neck are strongly modeled, giving the bust a monumental presence.

While many of the figures and fragments are vigorous and have a rough power, Rodin was also capable of a graceful lyricism, as exhibited in the Study for Ariane, Young Woman with a Serpent, and Sphinge (Sphinx) on a Column. The line of Ariane’s back is sculpted in a fluid rhythm that continues through her outstretched arms and legs. Rodin thrusts the crounching Sphinx into space with determination and elan, endowing the figure with a latent energy. In Young Woman with a Serpent the figure is graceful and voluptuous, strongly reflecting the Neo-Classical style.

The magnificent Cybele, goddess of nature and plants, shows Rodin’s reverence for antiquity. This monumental female has a strength and majesty that Rodin infused with pure energy. She is portrayed in a classical pose, which gives her a massive authority.

Also beautiful in terms of sheer plasticity of form are the Bust of Madame Fenaille and Pallas with Helmet. Madame Fenaille is a study in dynamic movement. The graceful folds of her dress echo the curved rhythms of her hair, and the whole is enhanced by the linear elegance of the column she sits on. Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, is a superb juxtaposition of Rodin’s mastery of textures, varying from the strongly modeled face of the goddess to the writhing snakes embedded in her armor.

Rodin ‘s larger than life personality permeates this exhibition, from the smaller poetic figures to the awe inspiring Gates of Hell. Beyond being a superb viewing experience, these bronzes deepen our knowledge of the complexity of this key artist.