Museum Program
13 June 2006 - 3 September 2006

Master Sculptor Rodin in Istanbul

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Master Sculptor Rodin in Istanbul

An artist who is among the foremost innovators of the modern age... One of the three great master sculptors of all time, along with Phidias and Michelangelo...

A creator who left his mark on the human consciousness with works like The Thinker, The Kiss, The Gates of Hell and Balzac...A remarkable genius whose ideas, conflicts, love affairs and scandals as well as his works indelibly engraved an age: Auguste Rodin!

Auguste Rodin carried Europe's deep-rooted tradition of sculpture out of the sentimental romanticism of the 19th century into the 20th century and the groundbreaking art of the modern age. From his smallest sculptures to his most imposing monuments, he demonstrated to contemporary and future generations what sculpture is and is not with the same powerful spirit and astounding mastery.

Sabancı University's Sakıp Sabancı Museum is proud to have hosted works by this great master of the art of sculpture in an exhibition which was a fitting sequel to the recent Picasso exhibition. The Rodin Museum, which inherited the sculptor's private collection as well as his own works, loaned 203 pieces for this exhibition. In addition to such famous works as The Thinker, The Kiss and Walking Man, the exhibition included nearly a hundred more sculptures, drawings, photographs and some of the ancient statues in Rodin's private collection. All these made it possible to follow Rodin's path from the works of his youth to those of his maturity, while throwing light on lesser known aspects of his artistic life: his drawings and collection of antiquities.

About Rodin

The Age of Bronze

The first important work of Rodin, The Age of Bronze represents the outcome of a long period formation, struggle, of intense research and effort. Rodin had the study of the nude as his sole aim. This work that he showed in Brussels, in January 1877, immediately aroused admiration for a "quality as precious as it is rare: life." Animated by the play of light that produces the delicate lean of the figure, the model offers at once a precision and subtlety that calls up the art of the great bronze-workers of the Renaissance. However the statue had no title and included no attribute that would enable it to be identified. Disoriented, the critic lighted on the only possible explanation: casting from nature, an accusation that Rodin took as an insult. However, after having dismissed the suggestion that it could be linked to the extensive series of works inspired by the defeat of 1870 by putting a weapon in its hand, he decided to entitle it The Age of Bronze. The accusation over casting was taken up again at the Salon in Paris in the following Spring. This was a dreadful blow for Rodin who was hoping that the work would be acquired by the State. It was in fact a further three years later that the directorate of Fine Arts commissioned a bronze, the first in a long series.

From the Antiquities to lots for the Sculptor

Upon entering into the universe of Rodin and hearing him speak of this, one senses the passion for the antique that made him one of the greatest collectors of antiquities of his time, and certainly one of the most singular. Rodin refers to his antique pieces not only as his possessions but as an emanation of himself, one of his creations that he assimilates into his works. This return to the antique took place after ten years of companionship with the work of Michelangelo and Dante, in a world of shadows and of withdrawal into self. The antique also offered him "pleasure in life, peace of mind, good grace, equilibrium, reason" which he fed off in order to face the last phase of his life, the years of glory and riches, but also of sickness, of old-age and of the refusal of his work. Following the improvement of his financial situation, the antique pieces gradually overran his house and studios. His choice fell on the "lots for the sculptor" as was available from the Antiquaries.

In 1913, Rodin, through this minimalist projection of his collection, was seeking to illustrate as clearly as possible his reading of the antique.

A single work is worth a biography

The human face inspired Rodin with a true passion, because he had "only to look at it to decipher a soul.

In thanks for services he could not pay for, in recognition or as a mark of admiration, Rodin produced portraits from his earliest days, then in the most complete freedom. He was twenty when he modeled the bust of his father. Thus began the long procession of physiognomies more or less well known, immortalized with that acuity that was peculiarly his own.

The portraits of these years were mainly of men. Some women, who were close to him, were the exception. This is the case with that of Rose Beuret, his long-term companion and first model, who would give her anger to Bellone. Among the most sincere of his feminine portraits, declined in many quite different versions, it is an example of a free approach that sustains a special bond. It would be the same with another beloved woman, Camille Claudel, whose portrait he made in 1884, and whose characteristics were given to much later allegories: The Farewell or Thought.

For him, "In truth, there is no artistic work which calls for such insight as the bust or portrait. […] A single work is worth a biography."

The Gates of Hell: "The diary of his sculpted life"

By order in 1880, Rodin received from the directorate of the Fine Arts the commission for a decorative door that was to be ornamented with bas reliefs inspired by the Divine Comedy by Dante. This door was intended for a museum of decorative arts that was then planned.

He had imagined from the outset a division into panels like those of the Gates of Paradise of the Baptistery in Florence, but, from the second maquette, he abandoned any separation into panels, after the example of the Last Judgement by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Having put aside two of the three books of Dante's poem and concentrating on the most sombre part, The Inferno, he was to keep only some identifiable figures, Paolo and Francesca, Ugolino and his Children, the Shades, the Thinker or Dante himself, at the heart of a multitude of figures in various sizes. These figures, these groups which overran the traditional structure that they subtended in which they sometimes played the part of architectural elements, had been modeled independently of one another. Many of these figures became more important and distinct groups.

Rodin had given everything up to the needs of creation. {…} If they were to be realized, [The Gates] could only comprise all the figures that the artist intended for them. They were there, lined up on the floorboards, around the maquette of the door, and they represented the very evolution of Rodin's inspiration, with his consent, call "the diary of his sculpted life.


If there is a genre that exercised Rodin and marked out his career with scandals and incomprehension, it is surely the monument. Necessarily an object of commission, a site of constraints, it generated expectations that were very often, in his case precisely, far from being realized. The equestrian statue found its logical extension in the Monument to Claude Lorrain in 1889. When Nancy, known as Le Lorrain, painter of light, decided to pay homage to him, it was to Rodin that the Committee turned. Since the death of Honoré de Balzac in 1850, a number of projects for monuments with an effigy of him had miscarried. The Society of the Men of Letters saw in Rodin the artist for the situation. In 1917, at Rodin's death, the bronze was still not cast. Since, ten other examples in bronze do credit to the cities bringing together for posterity the name of Rodin with that of Balzac. Rodin unfurled his reading by executing the large version of Man Walking, the work that had drawn the strongest criticism.

The Burghers of Calais

In 1884, the project of the demolition of the ramparts of Calais and its joining with the neighbouring community of Saint-Pierre brought to the notice of the municipal authorities the necessity and urgency of "perpetuating by means of a monument one of the strongest memories" in their history, the heroic act of six burghers who, in 1345, during the Hundred Years War, were picked out to be sacrificed so that the keys of their city would be handed over to the king Edward III but who were pardoned on the insistence of the queen. Advised by a Calais painter, thus sought out Rodin "whose sound abilities" seemed "the most appropriate to the subject to be treated." Rodin proposed a first maquette in plaster on two levels with the likenesses of six burghers in two rows.

In the month of July 1885, Rodin cursorily modeled some new clothed figures, paying attention to the molding so as to be able to deliver the plaster group. But the press criticized the attitudes of the burghers transfixed by distress. The opposition was such that the question of the subscription would have had to be re-examined, but the collapse of many of the Calais banks such as Sagot where the funds and subscriptions had been deposited was the cause of the end of the project.

Rodin was thus freed from all constraint. He pursued his research into several heads of men of the region without forgetting those of his friends. In 1892, the re-elected mayor of Calais relaunched the project and Rodin had the honour of inaugurating his monument during his lifetime, in 1895.

As for the monument inaugurated in London next to the Parliament in 1915, he suggested to present it on a plinth of 5 or 6 meters high so that the architectural space might contribute to the heightening of its "grandeur."

Fragmentations, Assemblages and Declensions

Entering into Rodin's studio from the years of 1895-1900 gave rise always to the same surprise. Whoever the visitors were, it was above all the luminous whiteness of the plasters, the mass and multitude of them that they felt. Rodin was prolific, and he is therefore known for the mass of his output, for the crowd of his sculptures, that he himself called his "people." His contemporaries already noticed in him the propensity for the multiplication of his works with the sole aim of creating others, as Mauclair, who remarks the "numerous vitrines, veritable anatomy galleries that occupy a whole floor and where hundreds of pieces and studies pile up."

Hard to please, eternally dissatisfied, he thus put a terrible and quasi-exclusive energy into his work, which made him look upon his work as definitively unfinished. It could only find a paradoxically temporary end across the specificity of a given piece, in a destination of exactly partnering something else, far from its source, or in a transcription into marble or stone of which Rodin was not to fail to lose track. "I look, I try to decompose, to recompose, like a garment fitter. Twenty years ago I did this, and I saw, each time, a little revealing, a ray of comprehension, and I no longer count on a conquest of the absolute." 


From Works

Fugit Amor [Love Fees]

Fugit Amor [Love Fees]

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Master Sculptor Rodin in Istanbul[;]Heykelin Büyük Ustası Rodin İstanbul'da
Master Sculptor Rodin in Istanbul[;]Heykelin Büyük Ustası Rodin İstanbul'da

Museum Program

Antik şekillerin sanatçı-koleksiyoner Rodin'in hayali dünyasındaki değişimi

26 Temmuz 2006

Antik şekillerin sanatçı-koleksiyoner Rodin'in hayali dünyasındaki değişimi


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