Art Centers: Sculptor Auguste Rodin’s Enduring Appeal (Stanford Cantor)

Stanford University (July 20, 2020):

What makes Rodin’s sculptures “modern”?

The Three Shades, Rodin, Stanford
The Three Shades is among the works in the Rodin Sculpture Garden, adjacent to the Cantor Arts Center. The sculpture uses three separate casts of the same figure that has been rotated into different positions. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The enduring appeal of Rodin, the modernity of his work, has to do with the way in which he makes visible an aesthetic of process – how, in other words, he takes traditional sculpture apart and puts it back together again in new and daring ways. Strategies of multiplication, scalability, fragmentation and recombinatory modes of assembly and display constitute some of the hallmarks of Rodin’s artistic practice.

Works by Rodin on view at the Cantor are often utilized by students and scholars from a range of disciplines, including medicine. In this moment, with outbreak of disease across the globe, what can Rodin’s works teach us about the relationship between art and nature?

Cantor Arts Center logoIt’s interesting that Rodin attracts so much attention from medical experts, especially here at Stanford, who have used his hands for diagnostic purposes. It’s true that Rodin was intensely interested in exploring pathologies of the body, especially now-discredited understandings of female hysteria. But there is also the irony that Rodin became furious after a critic accused him of making his first life-size figure through life casting, rather than modeling it himself. It should go without saying, but Rodin’s hands are not hands – not real ones, anyway – and their expressive forms don’t align neatly with the anatomical reality of hands in flesh and blood or even their more naturalistic counterparts. But the very fact that they elicit such responses demonstrates the power of art to provoke challenging questions that drive innovative paths of research that cut across disciplines, particularly in a university setting.

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