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Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Monument to Balzac
H. 270 cm ; W. 120.5 cm ; D. 128 cm
Cast by Alexis Rudier, 1935, for the museum collections
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Having conducted his research into Balzac’s body and head simultaneously, Rodin ended up with an assemblage in which these two elements conveyed their own values. While the head had evolved from a portrait resembling the writer into a concentration of expressive features , the body had moved in the opposite direction, veering towards a dilution of form in a symphony of nuances materialized in the fluid surface of the dressing gown .
What Rodin finally produced in 1897, after six years of labour, was a revolutionary monument. Stripped of the writer’s usual attributes (armchair, pen,book…), his Balzac was not so much a portrait but a powerful evocation of the visionary genius whose gaze dominated the world, of the inspired creator draped in the monk’s habit he used to wear when writing.
This overly innovative monument caused such an outrage when it was unveiled in 1898 that the commission was cancelled. Rodin never saw his monument cast in bronze.