In Rodin's footsteps in Paris

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Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 November 2023 Monday 09:35
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In Rodin's footsteps in Paris

* The author is part of the community of readers of La Vanguardia

A few autumn days in Paris invite you to follow in the footsteps of Rodin, the city where he was born on November 12, 1840. In 1875 he traveled to Italy, where he studied movement and muscular action in the works of Donatello and Michelangelo.

Rodin exhaustively investigated the anatomy of the human body, reaching the transgression of academic canons that filled his figures with curves, voluptuous movement and life.

Auguste Rodin is considered the father of modern sculpture. The museum that houses his work and his memory is an old 18th century mansion in the heart of Paris.

Among his numerous works, The Kiss and The Bronze Age stand out. It also contains works by Camille Claudel, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. It is surrounded by a flowery garden that becomes a magnificent open-air museum, where beautiful sculptures emerge. The museum is located on Varenne Street. It was inaugurated in 1919.

His recognition came in 1877 with the exhibition at the Salon of his male nude The Bronze Age. It is displayed on the ground floor of the museum. This work raised controversy given its extreme realism and led to the accusation that he had made plaster molds from live models. Some other works on display are: Eva and The Man with the Broken Nose.

The cathedral, also called The Arc of the Covenant, is a work in which two hands represent creation. God is the right hand, a symbol of power, strength, courage and triumph. He captured the "prince of darkness" in the left hand, which refers to what is ambiguous, deceptive, false and weak.

The kiss is one of his most famous works. With rough carving and through contrasts of light and shadow, it creates the intertwined bodies of lovers that warn us of the different feelings that love provokes. The couple was always one of the artist's favorite subjects.

For Rodin, as for the impressionist painters, light was very important. Impressionist painters want to convey their impressions to the viewer and Rodin tries to convey his feelings and passions to us with his sculpture.

I ascend a staircase with a beautiful wrought iron balustrade. On the second floor there is a room dedicated to Camille Claudel, a great sculptor, disciple and lover of Rodin.

His life was a story of love, jealousy and artistic creation that has left its mark on the art world. She is the sister of the poet Paul Claudel. She is a passionate woman and creator of tender, delicate and beautiful sculptures.

Passionate artist who, in her moments of madness, destroyed part of her work, but the bronze and marble bodies remain as indelible x-rays of pain.

Camille Claudel revolutionized, together with his teacher Rodin, the sculptural expression of his time. She was one of the few female artists at the time who had access to nude models.

The room, with white walls, invites me to rotate around the sculptures slowly: La Valse is a delicate and sensual study of two people, in bronze, lovingly linked in the whirlwind of dance. It is a love poem where rhythm and melody are combined. The unreal light reflected in those undulating shapes seems to give them life, animating the faces and the fixity of their metal gazes.

L’age mûr, a bronze sculpture set, composed of three pieces. It clearly alludes to the love triangle, and was made at the time of her definitive breakup with Rodin. This set also symbolizes the irrevocable destiny of man. Its base looks like a surging wave, above it, the figure of an old man moving away from a young woman kneeling and imploring, while another figure, half angel, half woman, embraces the old man.

Beyond her personal story, Camille Claudel creates a symbolic work that invites us to meditate on human relationships.

L'abandon, in bronze. The last sculpture of him. A response to Rodin's Kiss. He has taken up the theme of his work Sakountala The Sublimation of Love, inspired by a drama by the Hindu poet Kalidasa.

In the garden, architectural, sculptural and nature art are combined. In these well-kept English-style gardens there are several of his works. On a small pedestal, The Thinker, which is the portrait of Dante that was part of The Gates of Hell, the sculptor's great unfinished work on which he worked for 20 years.

The Burghers of Calais, a monumental bronze group in which historical figures are represented with great psychological penetration. Balzac's sculpture is a gigantic figure. She dressed him in an austere robe that he put on at night while he worked, letting all attention rest on the powerful head with deeply marked features.

Rodin would write in his will: "Art only begins with the inner truth. May all your shapes, all your colors, translate feelings."

He died in Meudon, near Paris, on November 17, 1917. His grave is in the garden of the house where he spent the last years of his life and is jealously guarded by a great work of his, The Thinker.