The illusion of the flesh - 1871-1890

Vue de l'exposition Rodin, la chair, le marbre
© Musée Rodin - Photo : Jérôme Manoukian

The first works blend older references to 18th century art in a style that is fairly characteristic of the Second Empire: graceful busts (Alsatian Orphan Girl), or the old philosopher (The Man With the Broken Nose), subjects of mythology (Diana, Psyche-Spring) or portraits in modern dress (Madam Roll). The treatment of the marble is illusionist and seeks to render the appearance of fabric, of lace, of flowers (Madam Morla Vicuna) or of hair (The Storm, Crying Woman). The representation of the feminine body occupies an important place, whether young and beautiful (Danaïd, Andromeda, Galatea) or marked by time (Winter, or She Who Was Once the Beautiful Wife of the Helmet Maker). Rodin especially practiced the small, sculpted group, the finely finished bodies contrasting by their polished aspect with the rough terrasses, the significance of which is easy enough to discern: the rock on which Andromeda or the Danaid fall, the fur or the frothy décolleté from which the bust of Madam Morla-Vicuna emerges, the rock Galatea leans on and thus springs from. The work intentionally confuses the elements and plays with ill-defined borders between the sculpture and its base. Rodin loves these intimate and fascinating pieces (The Head of John the Baptist, Dispair) that encourage a communion between the work and the viewer.