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Before the Creation
Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Black pencil, stumping, watercolour and gouache on paper
H. 25 cm ; W. 32.5 cm
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In Rodin’s post-1900 oeuvre, the erotic drawings formed a body of several hundred works.
In his erotic drawings, Rodin always concentrated on one or two nude models, eagerly observing the mysterious regions of their genitalia. The naked women whom he sketched agreed to reveal, to expose their pudenda to his gaze, often caressing themselves, sometimes casting off all restraint… thus allowing the artist to capture the most intimate and most expressive movements of their bodies.
In the foreground of the composition of this watercolour drawing, annotated by Rodin, lower right, avant la création, a woman’s vulva, exposed to view by her outspread thighs and the position of the foreshortened body, is the very subject of the drawing. On the face, anonymous and obscured by the way in which Rodin chose to frame his composition, the elliptical strands of hair and open mouth mirror and are aligned with the woman’s genitalia. It is hard not to make an allusion to Courbet’s The Origin of the World (Orsay, 1866), a picture that “appears as the ultimate point of the Realist conquest achieved by the painter” (Des Cars, 2007). In Rodin’s work, however, the very “modern” assertion of a plastic vocabulary independent of reality (free handling, elliptical forms, intense colours, abstract background against which the naked body exposes itself, outside of any context) competes with the highly-charged eroticism of the drawing.