Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Victor Hugo, Three-Quarter View
H. 22.2 cm ; W. 15 cm (Engraved part)
4th state of 10 Engraved part. Acquired in 1991.
Rodin was introduced to copperplate engraving, or, to be more precise, to etching and dry-point engraving, in 1881, by his friend Alphonse Legros, then living in London. Although he soon mastered the technique, he only explored 13 subjects in his engravings,but often printed a large number of successive states. During his lifetime, the engravings he made after his portrait busts enabled him to familiarize the public with his freestanding sculpture and earned him an excellent reputation as an engraver.
Rodin is known to have been unable to get Victor Hugo to sit for his portrait bust and had to surreptitiously sketch the great poet as he went about his everyday tasks. He executed the bust of the writer between February and April 1883, then made the dry-point engravings of front and three-quarter views after the finished portrait. His virtuoso use of dry-point produced superb effects of contrast between the deep, velvety blacks and the white of the page and made the modelling of Hugo’s face particularly lively. Rodin infused the spontaneity of a sketch into this engraved portrait by arranging it on the page with another view, placed in a different position.