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The Impact of Rodin's Nude Sculptures
Get inspired 02 Nov 2022

The Impact of Rodin's Nude Sculptures

nude sculptures
Le penseur or, The Thinker 1903 © Musée Rodin

Passionate about movement, the human body, and Greek sculpture, Rodin had a gift for transcribing emotions. From his works The Bronze Age, to The Burghers of Calais, through his portrait of Balzac, his sculptures caused many a scandal. But the work of Auguste Rodin did not only shock. With a visionary eye, his approach revolutionized nude sculptures… and gave birth to modern sculpture.

The movement in Rodin’s nude sculptures

Fascinated by classical nude sculptures, Rodin was strongly inspired by artists like Phidias and Michelangelo. As his artistic development progressed, he first perfected the technical aspect, then developed his own approach. Thus a new form of sculpture was born, no longer static, but centered on movement. A sculptor that for the first-time broke with a fixed approach to sculptural techniques. One just needs to observe his masterpieces to realize how the sculptures of Auguste Rodin play with the sense of space. You have to move around them to be able to admire them fully. And although they are carved in bronze or marble, they seem to be fluid, to be dancing.

L'homme qui marche or L'homme en mouvement, 1907 © Musée Rodin
L’homme qui marche or L’homme en mouvement, 1907 © Musée Rodin

An unprecedented subtlety in the retranscription of emotions

Movement was not the only reason why Rodin has marked the history of art. He was also extremely gifted at transcribing human emotions. And this talent was no accident, since the artist himself set the goal of materializing the living.  In doing this he developed many techniques. In his studio, the models posed as they wished. Rodin guided them very little, so as to leave room for chance and accidents. He thus left the necessary space to glimpse authenticity and introspection, which he tried to transcribe as accurately as possible. Then he amplified the features of the sculptures, accentuating the modeling or exaggerating the scale. The result is monumental works of art, both in terms of their size and their ability to have an emotional impact on the viewer.

nude sculptures
The Kiss, 1901-1904

Rodin’s nude sculptures: between allegory and autobiography

Rodin’s other great quality was succeeding in transforming the intimate into symbols shared by all. The Kiss, one of his most famous sculptures, is a perfect example of this ability to play with allegories. Inspired by his love affair with the sculptor Camille Claudel, this work has the power to evoke eternal love… regardless of the era or culture of the viewer! The strength of this sculpture lies in the intimate retranscription of a universal feeling: the impulse to love. It is the same for many works of Rodin. For example, Iris, messenger of the Gods and The one who was the beautiful Heaulmière, also have strong allegorical dimensions.

Iris, Messagère des Dieux, made by Alexis Rudier's foundry, around 1895
Iris, Messagère des Dieux, made by Alexis Rudier’s foundry, around 1895
© Musée Rodin

A new approach to marble

The last point – certainly the most daring – was Rodin’s innovative approach to marble. In order to obtain the best rendering, Auguste Rodin had it sculpted by specialists. So far, this was nothing very original or spectacular for the time. But he was the first to stop the work of the sculpting in the middle. Thanks to this unprecedented artistic approach, Rodin was then able to play with the finished and unfinished surfaces. As a tribute to Michelangelo‘s Non Finito, Rodin thus revolutionized marble sculpture. An art where the rough bases dialogue with the finesse of bodies springing into action.

nude sculptures
Fleurs dans un vase, picture by Christian Baraja © Musée Rodin

Nude sculptures are everlasting

All specialists of nude sculptures agree that Rodin revolutionized this art. Exaggeration of scale, play of movement, intentional unfinished work and profound retranscription of emotion are just few examples. Auguste Rodin offered to the sculptural world a static dance of the living.

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