September 09, 2014


April 8, 2014 – September 21, 2014

April 8, 2014 – September 21, 2014
“I see things like they were sculptures. It depends on how that form exists within the space”. Robert Mapplethorpe
In a single exhibition, the Musée Rodin brings together two forms of expression – Sculpture and Photography – through the works of two major artists: Robert Mapplethorpe and Auguste Rodin. Thanks to exceptional loans from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, this exhibition presents 50 sculptures by Rodin and a collection of 120 photographs, in a bold dialogue revealing the enduring nature of these great artists’ favourite themes and subjects.
There would appear to be little similarity between these two renowned figures, even though Mapplethorpe continually sought to sculpt the body through photography and Rodin used photography throughout his career.
Robert Mapplethorpe sought the perfect form, while Rodin attempted to capture a sense of movement in inanimate materials. There is no spontaneity in Mapplethorpe’s work, everything is constructed, whereas Rodin retains the traces of his touch and takes advantage of the accidental. One was attracted to men, the other to women, obsessively in both cases. But this did not stop Mapplethorpe from photographing female nudes, or Rodin from sculpting many male bodies.
Here, however, the differences between these two artists are instantly transformed into an unexpected dialogue. The curators have chosen seven themes, common to the work of both, revealing connections in form, theme and aesthetic. Movement and Tension, Black and White/Light and Shadow, Eroticism and Damnation are just some of the major issues running through the works of the two artists.
This exhibition invites visitors to challenge the dialogue established by the curators, and to make their own comparisons. This “sculpture and photography” approach is unprecedented, the first time such a confrontation has been presented, and looks at both photography and sculpture from a new angle.
In parallel with this, the Réunion des musées nationaux is organising a Mapplethorpe retrospective at the Grand Palais, from 22 March to 14 July 2014.
Exhibition curators
Hélène Pinet, Head of Photography Collections at the Musée Rodin
Judith Benhamou-Huet, Art critic and journalist
Hélène Marraud, Assistant curator, responsible for sculptures at the Musée Rodin

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917) 

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Terre Cuite et Plâtre, 28,6 x 18,6 x 12,9 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 3866 © Paris, Musée Rodin, photo C. Baraja

Terre Cuite et Plâtre, 47,5 cm x 20,7 x 14 cm,
Paris, Musée Rodin, S. 379 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja


AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Plâtre, 63,5 x 38 x 23 cm, Paris, Musée Rodin,
S. 2895 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Plâtre, 37,8 x 30,2 x 28,3 cm, Paris
Musée Rodin, S. 1825 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

Stone - H. 64 cm ; W. 29.5 cm ; D. 31.8 cm

In the second half of the 19th century, Europe’s largest cities underwent an unprecedented phase of transformation and modernization, similar to Baron Haussmann’s redevelopment of Paris, which involved the construction of numerous public and private buildings: operas, stock exchanges, chambers of commerce, fountains, townhouses, etc.
To better symbolize wealth and prosperity, these buildings were adorned with lavish decorative sculpture, contracted out to studios run by ornamental sculptors specialized in this type of work. Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-87) was one such case. Employing dozens of assistants, he was commissioned to decorate several important Parisian buildings: the commercial court (1864), the Paris Opera (1864-66) and the wings of the Louvre (1850-65).
When Rodin joined Carrier-Belleuse’s studio in 1863, his fellow employees included some of his former classmates from the École Spéciale de Dessin et de Mathématiques, known as the “Petite École”, with whom he worked on the exterior decoration of the mansion built on the Champs-Élysées for the Marchioness of Païva in 1865. For the young sculptor, this employment above all offered him a certain job security. Even though Rodin had obtained commissions in 1863 for the two figures representing Drama and Comedy on the facade of the Théâtre des Gobelins and for ornamental sculpture on the Théâtre de la Gaîté, his financial situation remained precarious. He lacked both the prestige of those who graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts and the advantages of its old-boy network.
Rodin learned a great deal from Carrier-Belleuse, whom he followed to Brussels when the studio received major commissions there. It was a decisive phase in his training in the field: he discovered the reality of running a large sculpture studio, a business with a top-down hierarchical structure from master sculptor to assistants and various craftsmen. Rodin would remember how it operated when he set up his own studio in the early 1880s, after being awarded the commissions for the Monument to the Burghers of Calais and The Gates of Hell.
Rodin also learned to cope with the demands of monumental stone sculpture. Having left Carrier-Belleuse’s studio and formed a partnership with the Belgian sculptor Antoine-Joseph Van Rasbourgh in 1873, Rodin worked on the interior decoration of the Brussels stock exchange, notably on a Group of Children for a pediment supported by two pairs of caryatids representing Trade and Industry, inspired by those on the Garnier’s Opera, in Paris, and Rude’s figures on a Brussels mansion. In 1871, Rodin and Van Rasbourgh commenced two exterior groups adorning the summit of the south facade of the Brussels stock exchange, originally entrusted to Carrier-Belleuse, Africa and Asia . Although Rodin did not sign these works, he executed most of these allegorical groups.
Commissions on other building sites in Brussels soon followed: the Palais Royal (1872), the Palais des Académies (1874) and a residential building on Boulevard Anspach (1874), for whose façade Rodin sculpted three figures. Rodin’s return to Paris in 1877 marked the end of this stage in his career, even if he occasionally accepted offers of work “simply to pay the rent” involving ornamental sculpture for the interiors of wealthy people’s homes.
Rodin’s interest in architecture did not stop at these new buildings; it was far broader and more eclectic.
In 1875, leaving Belgium for a short while, he travelled to Italy via Rheims, where the cathedral and its sculptures made a profound impression on him (Porches and Belfry of Rheims Cathedral, 1905, D.7717). In autumn 1877, he began his “cathedral tour” which took him all over France. He did not limit himself to masterpieces of Gothic architecture, but, until the early years of the 20th century, made regular visits to Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and classical French churches and castles (Interior of the Church of Sainte-Croix de Quimperlé, c.1901, D.3580; Buttress of the Château d’Ussé, 1889-90, D.5818; Profiles of Cornices, D.3397; The Château de l’Islette, c.1890 (?), D.3503).

In the late 19th century, Rodin strongly opposed Viollet-le-Duc’s excessive restoration programmes and ardently defended French architecture in an article entitled “Un sacrilège national. Nous laissons mourir nos cathédrales” (“A national sacrilege. We are letting our cathedrals die”), published in Le Matin (23 December 1909): “Snow, rain and sun find me standing in front of them like a vagabond on the roads of France, and I discover them over and over again, as if always seeing them for the first time. To understand them, one needs only to be sensitive to the pathetic language of those lines swollen with shadow and reinforced by the inclined form of plain or decorated buttresses. To understand these lovingly modelled lines, one must be lucky enough to be in love; for the mind may design, but it’s the heart that models.”
Rodin’s response to the expressive force of these buildings often lavishly adorned with stone carvings led to the publication of his book Les Cathédrales de France in March 1914. Prefaced by Charles Morice, it was a compilation of the notes, sketches and drawings that Rodin had made since he began visiting churches and cathedrals in the late 1870s.

From 1880 onwards, and from the moment he began his preliminary research for The Gates of Hell, these architectural tours had a more pragmatic side to them. In 1880, Rodin in fact received a commission for a monumental bronze door intended for the future Musée des Arts Décoratifs, not yet built but envisaged on the site of the Cour des Comptes (Audit Office), which burnt down during the Commune.
Rodin initially based what would later become The Gates of Hell on Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise for the Florence Baptistry, whose relief sculptures, executed in 1425-52, were arranged in panels and medallions. Rodin made sketch after sketch, before changing his mind and drawing his inspiration from motifs on Gothic doors and carvings on tympanums of Romanesque churches, combined with Renaissance window mouldings.
Rodin, for whom “the commission of ‘The Gates of Hell’ demanded a more profound knowledge of monument details”, effectively multipled the number of notes, sketches and drawings that he jotted down in small notebooks – almost 2,000 – on his visits to cathedrals. The sources of these sketches are sometimes hard to identify, for while the drawings are relatively precise, instead of general views, they often concern details – pillars, arches, mouldings and buttresses that show Rodin’s interest in how the light fell upon and modelled these volumes (Entrance to the Abbey Church of Saint-Pierre d’Auxerre, 1881-84, D.5916-5918; Dijon Law Courts, 1908-1909, D.5891). “I’m turning into an architect,” he wrote. “I must, because that’s how I’ll finish the things I need for my Porte.
The decorative arts museum was never built. A railway station was constructed in its place in 1900. By an ironic twist of fate, in 1986 this station became the Musée d’Orsay, whose collections are now home to the plaster of The Gates of Hell.
Rodin’s love of architecture would manifest itself in his sculpture time and time again. In his investigations and assemblages, he sometimes combined figures and fragments of bodies with elements of decorative architecture: columns, capitals, pilasters, foliated plinths (The Sphinx, c.1886; Earth and Sea, c.1900; Spring and Mountain, before 1900; The Walking Man, on a Column, c.1885?). Architectural fragments thus contributed to the overall movement and expressive force of his figures.
His awareness of the importance of the architectural surroundings prompted him to reflect upon the visibility of his sculptures in an urban environment. In 1913, when the English government purchased a cast of The Burghers of Calais, Rodin tried out an idea which he had been pondering over since 1885. He wanted to place the group on top of a very high base, so that it would be silhouetted against the sky and appear on the same scale as the architecture – the monument was initially erected in London’s Parliament Square. He thus had a five-metre-high scaffolding built in his garden at Meudon, a mere few steps from his front door, to judge the effect of such an installation.
Another commission enabled Rodin to further pursue this combination of sculpture and architecture. In March 1898, Armand Dayot, art critic and inspector general for the Ministry of Fine Arts, aired an idea with Jules Desbois for a monument to labour to be shown at the 1900 Universal Exposition. Desbois suggested other sculptors who might be interested in working on the project. Although he had been working for the event for several years, Dalou refused the offer, but several others were pleased to accept: Falguière, Baffier, Charpentier, Injalbert, Mercié, Meunier, and Rodin, obviously delighted with this idea for a collective effort, as on cathedrals.
Rodin coordinated the project and, in late 1898, submitted a plaster model celebrating creative energy: it represented a staircase tower reminiscent of both the towers of Pisa and the Château de Blois. Inside, the spiral staircase winding around the central column adorned with bas-reliefs also recalled the Trajane Column, Rome, and the Vendôme Column, Paris. It was surmounted by the Benedictions group, while the figures of Night and Day stood on the base, which led down to the crypt.
The model was shown in 1900, but no funding for the execution of the monument was forthcoming. Thus, like many of the cathedrals that Rodin admired so much, his Tower of Labour remained unfinished.

Rodin may not have become a builder himself, but he assuaged his passion for architecture to some extent by collecting photographs of architecture and by opting to live and work amidst “old stones”.
In the 1890s, he conducted his love affair with Camille Claudel in a semi-ruined rococo mansion called the Folie Payen (or Folie-Neubourg), on the Boulevard d’Italie. The main reasons for purchasing the Villa des Brillants, a modest, recently built, Louis XIII-style home in Meudon was because of its magnificent view over the Seine valley and the train service providing easy access to his Parisian studios at the Dépôt des Marbres (rue de l’Université). The pavilion built in 1900 for his exhibition in the Place de l’Alma, and dismantled when the show closed, was re-erected the following year at the sculptor’s request in his garden at Meudon. Though modern in some respects (the structure was in metal), the rotonda at its entrance, its portico and wide arched windows all drew their inspiration from the rocaille style.
Between 1907 and 1910, Rodin found the means of having the central section of the facade of the Château d’Issy-les-Moulineaux rebuilt in his garden. The original castle, constructed by Pierre Bulet in the late 17th century, had been destroyed by fire in 1871.
But this link between sculpture and architecture was probably forged definitively when Rilke showed Rodin the Hôtel Biron (built in 1728-30 by the architect Jean Aubert, who later designed the Stables at the Château de Chantilly). Rodin was charmed by the building and its grounds, adjacent to the prestigious Invalides complex with its domed chapel. Though scheduled for demolition, the Hôtel Biron was temporarily occupied by artists. The premises Rodin rented became his private study and reception rooms, before being chosen to house the museum founded after the sculptor donated his entire works and collections to the French nation. Rodin’s relationship with architecture was thus just as decisive in his early career as at the end of his life and for the works he left to posterity.
In 1908, Rodin carved a sculpture out of a block of stone, initially called The Ark of the Covenant. Two right hands, held together in an upward spiralling movement enclosing an empty space, recall a rib vault. This resemblance to a Gothic vault, and the subsequent publication of Rodin’s book on cathedrals in 1914, prompted him to change the title to The Cathedral, thus conveying the aspirations of the sculptor, driven by the constructive energy and spiritual force expressed in his works.
-          Corps et décors. Rodin et les arts décoratifs, exhibition catalogue, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2010.
-          Vers L’Âge d’airain. Rodin en Belgique, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée Rodin, 1997. In particular Hélène Marraud, “Monuments et sculptures architecturales”, p. 81.
-          Rodin en 1900. L’exposition de l’Alma, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, 2001. In particular Véronique Matiussi, “La Rodinière”, p. 52.
-          Rodin. Le Musée et ses collections, Scala, Paris, 1996. In particular Claudie Judrin, “Les dessins d’architecture”, p. 45, and Alain Beausire, “Des lieux où vécut et travailla Rodin”, p. 121.
-          Antoinette Le Normand-Romain & Annette Haudiquet, Rodin, Les Bourgeois de Calais, éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 2001.
-          Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, La Porte de l’Enfer, éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris.
-          Antoinette Le Normand-Romain & Hélène Marraud, Rodin à Meudon. La Villa des Brillants, éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1996.



© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation,Inc.
All rights reserved 
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Bronze, 21,7 x 22,5 x 27 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 1127 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja


Map 1330 © 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Plâtre, 78 x 49,5 x 31 cm, S. 3179
© Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

Bronze - H. 93.1 cm ; W. 43.5 cm ; D. 35 cm

ORCHID 1982, MAP 949
© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved 

© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved
Plâtre, 14,5 x 10,2 x 6,3 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 1272 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

 ORCHID 1985 - Map 1579
© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Terre Cuite, 40,3 x 41 x 19,1 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 6629 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Terre Cuite et Plâtre, 12,9 x 13,3 x 10 cm,
Paris, Musée Rodin, S. 3718 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

Map 504 © 2014
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Plâtre, 20 x 29 x 12,1 cm, Paris, Musée Rodin,
S. 41 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja


BILL T. JONES 1985, MAP 1616
© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
 Bronze, 85,7 x 39 x 32 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 795 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja


FEET - 1982,  MAP 895  
© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved
Terre Cuite et Bois, 19,9 x 11,3 x 23,4 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 3840 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Plâtre, 23,5 x 22,1 x 12 cm, Paris
Musée Rodin, S. 689 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja

MICHAEL REED 1987 - MAP 1728
© 2014 Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
All rights reserved  
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Bronze, 85 x 59,8 x 26,5 cm, Paris,
Musée Rodin, S. 495 © Paris, Musée Rodin, ph. C. Baraja 


Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens. Of his childhood he said, "I come from suburban America. It was a very safe environment and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave." 

In 1963, Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he also experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970 and began producing his own photographs to incorporate into the collages, saying he felt "it was more honest." That same year he and Patti Smith, whom he had met three years earlier, moved into the Chelsea Hotel.

Mapplethorpe quickly found satisfaction taking Polaroid photographs in their own right and indeed few Polaroids actually appear in his mixed-media works. In 1973, the Light Gallery in New York City mounted his first solo gallery exhibition, "Polaroids." Two years later he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting his circle of friends and acquaintances—artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the S & M underground. He also worked on commercial projects, creating album cover art for Patti Smith and Television and a series of portraits and party pictures for Interview Magazine. 

In the late 70s, Mapplethorpe grew increasingly interested in documenting the New York S & M scene. The resulting photographs are shocking for their content and remarkable for their technical and formal mastery. Mapplethorpe told ARTnews in late 1988, "I don't like that particular word 'shocking.' I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before … I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them." Meanwhile his career continued to flourish. In 1977, he participated in Documenta 6 in Kassel, West Germany and in 1978, the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City became his exclusive dealer. 

Mapplethorpe met Lisa Lyon, the first World Women's Bodybuilding Champion, in 1980. Over the next several years they collaborated on a series of portraits and figure studies, a film, and the book,Lady, Lisa Lyon. Throughout the 80s, Mapplethorpe produced a bevy of images that simultaneously challenge and adhere to classical aesthetic standards: stylized compositions of male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and studio portraits of artists and celebrities, to name a few of his preferred genres. He introduced and refined different techniques and formats, including color 20" x 24" Polaroids, photogravures, platinum prints on paper and linen, Cibachrome and dye transfer color prints. In 1986, he designed sets for Lucinda Childs' dance performance, Portraits in Reflection, created a photogravure series for Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, and was commissioned by curator Richard Marshall to take portraits of New York artists for the series and book, 50 New York Artists. 

That same year, in 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepted increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death in 1989. His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Today Mapplethorpe is represented by galleries in North and South America and Europe and his work can be found in the collections of major museums around the world. Beyond the art historical and social significance of his work, his legacy lives on through the work of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. He established the Foundation in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.

In May 1903, at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, Rodin saw a marble ‘ Head of a Young Woman ‘, from Chios, belonging to Edward Perry Warren, a collector who had commissioned a marble version of ‘ The Kiss ‘ three years earlier. The sculptor initially sought to exchange several of his own works for this Greek sculpture, then tried to purchase it at any price, but all his efforts were in vain. Rodin eventually “compensated” for his frustration the following year by writing and publishing an article on the work in the periodical ‘ Le Musée, Revue d’Art Antique’. From the moment he first laid eyes on this ‘ Warren Head ‘, Rodin could not contain his admiration, which he proclaimed in an interview given to a journalist from the ‘ Morning Post ‘ : “It’s life itself. It embodies all that is beautiful, life itself, beauty itself. It is admirable. Those parted lips. I am not a man of letters; hence I am unable to describe this truly great work of art. I feel but I cannot find the words that will give expression to what I feel. This is a Venus! You cannot imagine how much this Venus interests me. She is like a flower, a perfect jewel. So perfect that it is as disconcerting as nature itself. Nothing could describe it.” (“Interview with M. Rodin: A Praxiteles Venus”, Morning Post, 28 May 1903) This anecdote and the exuberant praise expressed by the sculptor, who was then at the height of his artistry, reveal the primordial role awarded to the human body in his oeuvre, far beyond simple questions of anatomical accuracy. Throughout his career, the body as a vehicle for expression of the impulses of the soul, of passion, effectively constituted an inexhaustible source of inspiration in his search for the perfect means of combining ideal antique beauty with the mystery of nature. 
“Come and see me tomorrow morning at Meudon. We will talk of Phidias and Michelangelo, and I will model statuettes for you on the principles of both. In that way you will quickly grasp the essential differences of the two inspirations, or, to express it better, the opposed characteristics which divide them.” This invitation made by Rodin to Paul Gsell c.1910, and the modelling session and explanations that followed (in Rodin on Art and Artists: Conversations with Paul Gsell, “Phidias and Michelangelo”) reveal how aware the sculptor was of the contradictory influences exerted on his own art by Phidias’ classical example and Michelangelo’s more tormented.   

In his early years of training, Rodin began studying Greek antiques and master sculptors in the Louvre, where he spent hours drawing. The numerous sketches and studies that he made in the early 1870s bear witness to his ongoing interest in the diverse models offered by different periods in art history. On the same sheet of paper, Rodin glued drawings of column statues of queens in Chartres Cathedral next to figures from the Parthenon frieze, showing how receptive he was to the expressive force peculiar to each of these aesthetic canons. This would later be borne out by the scope and heterogeneity of his collection of sculptures, in which the arts of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, the Middle East, the Far East and the Middle Ages were all represented. This expression of the antique ideal emerged in 1863, in Man with the Broken Nose (1863-75), among the first of Rodin’s works to move away from the more decorative style prevalent in Carrier-Belleuse’s studio. Using an old workman from the Saint-Marcel district of Paris as the sitter for his portrait bust, Rodin abandoned the search for individual resemblance so as to be closer to antique sculptures. He thus emphasized the facial features of his sitter (broken nose, wrinkles, beard) and transformed him into a Greek philosopher. Between 1876 and 1915, Rodin made several visits to Italy, initially to discover the works of his masters, Donatello and Michelangelo, then to nurture and revive his relationship with them. He admired the emotional quality of Michelangelo’s figures, their twisting poses, the expressive force of non finito. On his very first journey, he filled sketchbook after sketchbook with studies. In the early 1870s, the Florentine artist’s influence on Rodin was particularly evident in his manner of sculpting the bodies of monumental figures when working for CarrierBelleuse in Brussels: witness the Caryatids and Atlantes on the facade of a residential building in Boulevard Anspach, and the groups he carved for the Chamber of Commerce. The four figures with powerful musculature and twisting poses, modelled in the Pedestal of the Titans in the 1870s, epitomized the fruits of his research. Further evidence of Rodin’s debt to Michelangelo can be seen in the resemblance between the model’s pose in ‘ The Age of Bronze ‘ (1877) and that of the Dying Slave (1513), as well as in the similarity of the modelling of the man’s back to Michelangelo’s handling of a Male Nude in a pen and ink drawing (1505), now in the Casa Buonarroti, Florence. This influence was again apparent in 1881, when Rodin, engrossed in the design and execution of The Gates of Hell, seems to have borrowed the pose for his Eve from her eponymn in Michelangelo’s scene of The Expulsion from Paradise, painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-12). He also drew his inspiration for her pendant, Adam (1880-81), directly from the section of the fresco entitled The Creation of Adam

From The Age of Bronze onwards, Rodin preferred to depict a body in motion rather than to work from a fixed, academic pose. Auguste Neyt, a young Belgian soldier whom he used as a model, remembered coming into his studio, where “I had to train myself to strike the pose. It was hardly an easy thing to do. Rodin did not want straining muscles; in fact, he loathed the academic ‘pose’… The master wanted ‘natural’ action taken from real life.” (cited by Butler) Towards the end of his life, the sculptor, in turn, described his working method to Paul Gsell: “As for me, seeker after truth and student of life as I am… I take from life the movements I observe, but it is not I who impose them. Even when a subject which I’m working on compels me to ask a model for a certain fixed pose, I indicate it to him, but I carefully avoid touching him to place him in the position, for I will reproduce only what reality spontaneously offers me. I obey Nature in everything, and I never pretend to command her. My only ambition is to be servilely faithful to her.” (Gsell, p. 11). This search for the veracity of nature and movement led him away from the accepted norms of bodily representation. Breaking with tradition, he chose to portray a fragmentary figure in The Walking Man (1907) – a male torso, with neither head nor arms, planted on two legs opened like a compass. Having eliminated all anecdotal details to focus on the sensation of movement, Rodin produced an unprecedented and powerfully expressive interpretation of it, reiterating the force that had so captivated him when standing before incomplete antique statues and Michelangelo’s unfinished works. In the early 1910s, while conversing with Rodin, Paul Gsell argued that what proved that he changed nature was “that the cast would not give at all the same impression as your work”. Rodin reflected an instant and said: “That is so! Because the cast is less true than my sculpture! It would be impossible for any model to keep an animated pose during all the time that it would take to make a cast from it. But I keep in my mind the ensemble of the pose and I insist that the model shall conform to my memory of it… The cast only reproduces the exterior; I reproduce, besides that, the spirit which is certainly also part of nature. I see all the truth, and not only that of the outside.” (Gsell, p. 11) This desire to capture the impulses of the soul through bodily movement may explain Rodin’s love of dance, which was one of his major sources of inspiration. He would rather sketch dancers than models in traditional sittings. Unlike an artist such as Degas, Rodin was not interested in classical ballet but preferred experimental dance as performed by Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes, who liberated dance from artifice and convention and attained new heights of freedom. Rodin’s enthusiasm had ample opportunity to manifest itself: in 1889, at one of the events programmed for the Universal Exposition, he made drawings at a performance given by a Javanese dance company. In 1906, the King of Siam visited Paris, accompanied by a troupe of Cambodian dancers, whom Rodin followed to Marseilles. 

He executed about fifty life drawings of them in watercolours, notably studies of hand movements.  The following year, Loie Fuller arranged for Rodin to attend a show performed by the Japanese dancer Hanako, whom he then regularly asked to pose, over the next few years until 1911, for numerous drawings and a series of masks. During the same period, he paid Alda Moreno, an acrobatic dancer at the Opéra-Comique, to pose for him and modelled a series of small sculptures of her. The sculptor’s extremely free anatomical handling attempted to capture all the energy of her dance movements. In 1912, Nijinsky also posed for Rodin, who defended him when L’Après-midi d’un faune caused an outrage in the press: “The reason why we loved Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky so much was because they recovered the freedom of instinct and rediscovered the sense of a tradition based on a respect for nature.” 

Both dance and the female body were thus always important sources of inspiration for Rodin, who, throughout his career, produced several interpretations full of sensuality, or eroticism: Faun and Nymph (c.1886, inv. S. 363), The Female Martyr, Crouching Woman (1906-08, inv. S. 1156), Iris, Messenger of the Gods (1895, inv. S.1068), The Eternal Idol, Danaïd, Sin...  Working while observing a life model played a fundamental role in Rodin’s creative process. In his address books, he used to jot down the names of his models (men, women, young and old people…), together with notes about their physical characteristics. Instead of requesting decorous academic poses, the sculptor always preferred to give them tremendous leeway in the poses they adopted, as he sought to capture true movement in the countless drawings he made “from life”, without taking his eyes off the model. In these “drawings without looking”, the artist accepted, and sought, the anatomical distortions and sculptural innovations produced by this type of working method: “Since I began,” Rodin declared enthusiastically, “I have the impression that I know how to draw… And I know why my drawings have this intensity: it’s because I do not intervene. Between nature and paper, I eliminated talent. I do not reason. I simply let myself go.”.(cited in Figures d’Eros, p. 50) From the mid-1890s onwards, in fact, his drawings and watercolours of female nudes revealed new phases of his investigations. Henceforth far less influenced by Michelangelo, these works also attested to greater synthesis and extraordinary artistic and moral freedom: the uninhibited bodily movements were frequently captured from unprecedented viewpoints. In 1897, the art critic Roger Marx offered the first analysis of this new type of drawing, which he called “snapshots of the female nude” (Roger Marx, “Cartons d’artistes. Auguste Rodin”, L’image, 1897 (pp. 292-9). 
Rodin’s fascination for Sapphic couples, which he shared with Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Louÿs, Paul Verlaine and his predecessor Gustave Courbet, was evident in several of his drawings. In all these drawings, Rodin assuaged his curiosity in privileged posing sessions with the models. There was no visual compromise nor stage effects: the nude was not “arranged in a pose” as in Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet’s “studied” painting. Their compelling eroticism added a touch of scandal to these works, and established a parallel with Japanese prints, much sought after by art lovers at this time and much admired by Rodin, as the Goncourt brothers remarked and commented somewhat ironically upon in their Journal (5 January 1887): “Rodin, who is in a faunish frame of mind, asked to see my erotic Japanese prints, and swooned with admiration before the women’s drooping heads, the broken lines of their necks, the rigid extensions of arms, the contractions of feet, all the voluptuous and frenetic reality of coitus, all the sculptural entwining of bodies, melded and interlocked in the spasm of pleasure.” (Goncourt, Vol. III, p. 3) Rodin’s feelings towards the “old stones” in his collection of antiques could likewise be described as amorous. One evening, in the glow of the lamplight, he went into raptures over an antique statue of Aphrodite that he was showing to Paul Gsell: “Is it not marvellous?”… “Just look at these numberless undulations of the hollow which unites the body to the thigh… Notice all the voluptuous curvings of the hip… And now, here, the adorable dimples along the loins.” He spoke in a low voice, with the ardor of a devotee, bending above the marble as if he loved it. “It is truly flesh!,” he said… “You would think it moulded by kisses and caresses.” Then, suddenly, laying his hand on the statue, “You almost expect, when you touch this body, to find it warm.” (Gsell, p. 21) BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Almost twenty years after Nicéphore Niepce’s early experiments, photography officially entered the annals of history on 7 January 1839, when François Arago, physicist, astronomer and Republican member of the French Assembly, presented the “daguerreotype”, a process invented by Louis-Jacques Daguerre, to the Parisian Academy of Science. From then on, there was an open debate, especially within the walls of France’s Academy of Fine Arts, between the supporters and detractors of this new means of producing images. The basic argument revolved around the following questions: was photography a “mechanical” tool for capturing reality, or did it leave room for an interpretative and expressive approach? In other words, was a photograph a document or a work of art? While Pictorialist photographers such as Stieglitz, Käsebier, Langdon Coburn and Steichen endeavoured to have photography recognized as an artistic medium in the 1890s, this status was not really acquired until after World War II.
Moreover, a rapport between photography and sculpture very soon emerged. From the 1840s onwards, pioneering photographers, including Niépce, Daguerre, William Henry Fox Talbot and Hippolyte Bayard, found that the ornamental plaster or marble statuettes favoured in middle-class homes made ideal photographic subjects. To quote Fox Talbot: “Statues, busts, and other specimens of sculpture, are generally well represented by the Photographic Art; and also very rapidly in consequence of their whiteness. These delineations are susceptible of an almost unlimited variety: since in the first place, a statue may be placed in any position with regard to the sun, either directly opposite to it, or at any angle: the directness or obliquity of the illumination causing of course an immense difference in the effect.” (The Pencil of Nature, London, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1844)
Photography’s affinity with sculpture, as well as its documentary and evidential value, may explain Rodin’s early interest in this new medium. In 1877, his submission to the Paris Salon, The Age of Bronze, was the subject of huge controversy. Its critics accused Rodin of not having modelled this male figure, but of having used a life cast. The sculptor reacted by employing photographer Gaudenzio Marconi, who supplied art students with images, to take a series of shots of both the plaster version of The Age of Bronze and Auguste Neyt, the model who had posed for the work, so that they could be used as proof in his defence. This decision shows how irrefutable Rodin considered photographic evidence to be. In fact, as Michel Frizot explains, he chose to prove his innocence, not by producing a live cast of the actual model in the same pose, but by comparing photographs of the plaster version of the work and the sitter.
On several occasions Rodin made remarks expressing his reservations about photography, limiting it to its capacity for accuracy and elementary realism, not considering it to be a means of expression or artistic discipline in its own right. His famous outburst against photography “which lies”, as related by Paul Gsell, is a brilliant illustration of his standpoint:
“If, in fact, in instantaneous photographs, the figures, though taken while moving, seem suddenly fixed in mid-air, it is because, all parts of the body being reproduced exactly at the same twentieth or fortieth of a second, there is no progressive development of movement as there is in art. […] it is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of a movement which takes several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly suspended.”
Rodin’s concept of photography was in line with the prevailing views held in his day: photography’s merit lay in its documentary precision, its ability to reproduce mechanically, faithfully and with neutrality,and not in any artistic capacity. Yet the photographic image, strictly factual and documentary in Rodin’s eyes at the time of The Age of Bronze, would soon become part of and then influence his creative process, although he apparently never used a camera himself. As the medium that put his works into public circulation, photography also helped maintain his reputation as an artist.
Rodin was a keen collector and an imaginative user of photography. By the end of his life, his collection and archives numbered no less than 7,000 prints. The nature and quality of these photographs differ, combining documentary and artistic images. Their themes and subjects are worth commenting upon further.
1) Rodin’s collection of photographs includes pictures of architecture, landscapes and academic nudes assembled by the sculptor himself. Although these photographs are very good quality, they are not the outstanding feature of his collection: rather, part of a stock of photographs used by artists of his period in the elaboration of their compositions.
2) Photographing artworks became popular in the 1850s. As was common practice among sculptors during this period, Rodin had his works photographed as soon as they were shown at the Salons, from the early 1870s onwards. These pictures were intended for his own personal archives, for his patrons or the purchasers of his sculptures, as well as for publication in art reviews to ensure his works reached a broader public. Rodin employed specialist photographers, such as Gaudanzio Marconi, Karl Bodmer, Victor Pannelier and E. Freuler....
An objective viewpoint, direct lighting and precise contours were the main characteristics of these photographs that kept track of his studio production, essentially during the period of Rodin’s commissions for monuments in the 1880s, when his activity had increased to such a point that he was using four studios, in and around the Dépôt des Marbres. These photographs, sometimes kept together in a file, enabled Rodin to follow the different stages in the gestation of a sculpture, as did the clay models from which he had plaster casts made.
Although Rodin used photography mainly for documentary purposes at this time, he soon began looking for photographers who were other than simple technicians and could propose a more artistic vision of his work. In 1896, he thus employed Eugène Druet, an amateur photographer and the owner of café that Rodin had patronized since 1893. In 1900, after the two men had temporarily fallen out while preparing for the exhibition in the Pavillon de l’Alma, Jean Limet, another amateur photographer and the patinator of Rodin’s bronzes, was commissioned to take the photographs to be published in the catalogue. The remarkable fruits of his investigations into colour can be seen in his bichromated-gelatin prints.
Encouraged by Rodin, Druet became a picture dealer in 1903. The sculptor then signed a contract with the publisher Jacques-Ernest Bulloz, who brought out a portfolio of photographs of Rodin’s sculptures that same year.
In 1896, at an exhibition held at the Musée Rath, in Geneva, Rodin showed photographs for the first time alongside his sculptures and drawings. He was so pleased with the experience that he repeated it, notably at the Pavillon de l’Alma exhibition, where 71 photographs were displayed next to his sculptures and drawings.
3) Rodin frequently retouched the photos of his sculptures in pencil, pen or with a brush, but for several different reasons:
Some of the pencil or ink amendments indicated the corrections to be given to the photographer (e.g. to emphasize a shadow), or to the engraver when the photograph was to be published. For Rodin, retouching a photo was often a vigorous exercise, as his pen strokes inked out whole areas of the image.
The sculptor also used retouched photographs as a starting point for his illustrations of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil.
Many of these photos with amendments correspond to Rodin’s different ideas about the work in progress: photography was a tool that helped him to project a mental image of the sculpture. Rodin gave his photographers strict instructions as to how he wanted these photographs to be taken. They served as an aid in the gestation of a sculpture. The amendments Rodin made to them represented the changes that he envisaged making. This rapid retouching of the photos in pen, pencil or ink wash enabled him to fix in his mind exactly what he wanted to do before reworking the plasters. According to Michel Frizot, Rodin regarded the photographic medium as “a transaction surface” that allowed him to rework a creative idea visually rather than manually.
Some of these modifications, however, were never transposed onto the sculptures, and the photographs thus retouched, notably with gouache to isolate the figure, in which the image became an end in itself, acquired the status of artworks in their own right.
4) Rodin proved to be very sensitive to how other artists regarded his works. Among the photographers with whom he preferred working were Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrüd Käsebier, Stephen Haweis and Henry Coles.
On Rodin’s death in 1917, his archives and collection of photographs sank into oblivion, despite the numerous acquisitions made by Léonce Bénédite, the Musée Rodin’s first curator, who completed the existent, already substantial, body of work. Rediscovered in the late 1960s, it was not truly brought to light again until the 1970s.
In 1979, an article on Druet was included in the catalogue of a Rodin exhibition held in East Berlin. In 1981, the photographs of Rodin’s works featured prominently in the vast Rodin retrospective organized in Washington by Albert Elsen and Kirk Varnedoe.
Since the 1880s, the Musée Rodin has laid the emphasis on studying, conserving and highlighting the importance of the photographic collections and archives. Today these contain approximately 25,000 photgraphs.
Auguste Rodin, Paul Gsell, Rodin on Art and Artists: Conversations with Paul Gsell, Courier Dover Publications, 1983.
Rodin, under the direction of Claude Keisch, exhibition catalogue, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, 1979.
Rodin Rediscovered, under the direction of Albert E. Elsen, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1981.
Les photographes de Rodin, under the direction of Monique Laurent. Catalogue by Hélène Pinet, Photography Department, Musée Rodin, Paris, 1986.
Rodin en 1900. L’exposition de l’Alma, exhibition catalogue, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 2001.
Rodin et la photographie, under the direction of Hélène Pinet, Gallimard/Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007. Notably Michel Frizot, “La photographie, une surface de transaction” (pp. 14-17), and Hélène Pinet, “Dans l’atelier. L’œil du photographe. Le regard de Rodin” (pp. 24-29).
Sculpter-photographier. Photographie-sculpture, Proceedings of the conference held at the Louvre under the direction of Michel Frizot and Dominique Païni, éditions Marval/Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1993. Notably Hélène Pinet, “La sculpture, la photographie et le critique” (pp. 85-92).
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