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The making of a Rodin

 Rodin’s creative process in Paris, from sketches and casts to bronzes

Olivia Weinberg | November/December 2014

Rodin’s figures have a restless energy. Lean, long-limbed, they stretch and slump, curl and clinch. Unlike that of his friend Monet, his rise to fame was a slow burn. It took critics years to give him the recognition he deserved and he still splits the crowd today. Is it because he is a tricky artist to pigeonhole?

Rodin was both a champion of modern art and a by-product of the late Romantics. He looked behind him for inspiration. He was fascinated by ancient Greek mythology and spent long periods obsessing over literary epics such as Dante’s “Inferno” and Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal”. But he looked forward too, rebelling against traditional methods, finding new ways to work that blazed the trail for modern sculpture. His work is not about familiar iconography or textbook perfection, but a strong desire to capture the inner truths and troubles of the human soul. His world runs on passion and turmoil.

“The Laboratory of Creation”, the Musée Rodin’s final show this year, is an unusual one. With hardly any finished bronzes on display, “we’re focusing on the things we don’t usually show—the different steps and studies, the sketches before the masterpiece,” says Hélène Marraud, co-curator of the exhibition. Here, the weight will fall on Rodin’s plaster and terracotta casts: a huge collection that will be shown alongside his drawings. Irregular, rough and smothered in fingerprints, the casts offer a glimpse into Rodin’s creative process. Less polished than his bronzes, they have an expressive power that is authentic and undiluted, and shows Rodin at his best.

Look at “Meditation”, 1896. The female figure is hunched; she meanders left, then right, and the surface is covered in pits and pocks. The details are unrefined, but Rodin has captured the true spirit and sensuality of his model. He has given her an emotional intensity that is both tender and authoritative, full of grace and full of strength. I’m booking my ticket now. ~ Olivia Weinberg

Rodin: The Laboratory of Creation Musée Rodin, Paris, Nov 13th to Sept 27th 2015

 

EXHIBITIONS AT A GLANCE

Allen Jones (Royal Academy, London, Nov 13th to Jan 25th). The RA continues its knack for finding well-known artists who have never had a British retrospective. Allen Jones’s pop art is full of colour and irony, and his drawings are worth a closer look.

Pop to Popism (Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Nov 1st to Mar 1st). A chance to see some of Australia’s finest pop artists alongside the usual suspects. Look out for “The American Dream” by Brett Whiteley—at 22 metres long, it’s hard to miss.

Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection (Science Museum, London, Dec 2nd to Mar 1st). A dive into the archives of the world’s oldest photographic society, from William Henry Fox Talbot to Martin Parr—plus a range of gadgets including Nicéphore Niépce’s heliograph.

Love is Enough: William Morris and Andy Warhol (Modern Art Oxford, Dec 6th to March 8th). Guest-curated by the 2004 Turner prize-winner, Jeremy Deller, who puts Morris and Warhol head to head. Soul mates or a relationship doomed from the start? You decide.

Francis Bacon: The Process of Creation (Hermitage, St Petersburg, Dec 7th to March 8th). A dense but focused show that positions Bacon alongside his influences: Rembrandt, Titian, Van Gogh, Picasso. It goes to the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich next year.

Small Stories: At home in a dolls’ house (V&A Museum of Childhood, London, Dec 13th to Sept 6th). Funny little figures, lovably dated wallpaper: it’s hard to resist a dolls’ house. Here are 12 spanning 300 years, including a kitsch “Kaleidoscope House” by Laurie Simmons.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (National Gallery, Prague, Nov 21st to Feb 1st). Piranesi was one of the great printmakers. His imaginary prisons and ancient ruins inspired everyone from Coleridge to Victor Hugo.

Delacroix’s Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (LACMA, LA, Nov 16th to Feb 15th). A whole exhibition about one painting, from 1826. Packed with history, it depicts Greece as a young woman with fiery eyes and a troubled gaze. ~ OW

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