The Figure in the Block - 1890-1900

Vue de l'exposition Rodin, La Chair, Le Marbre
© Musée Rodin

With many commissions, Rodin multiplies his production by using several subjects taken from his research for The Gates of Hell (Fugit Amor). The works grow in size as he increases the role of the non finito as a plastic and aesthetic effect (Rose Beuret, Thought). With Dawn, Rodin tries out the treatment of the face in the shadow of an overhang of rough matter of no iconographic significance. “It looks as though you know there is a figure in the block, and that you are intent on breaking the surrounding gangue that is hiding it from us,” remarked Camille Mauclair (1918). This effect, as he uses it, is also a way of denying any illusionist and mimetic intent by enhancing the material with the use of contrast; it accentuates as well the symbolist element of certain works (Cupid Carrying off His Veils, Young Girl Kissed by a Phantom). The Kiss constitutes a challenge, one his celebrity would henceforth partially mask in the audacity of the loving gestures, the nudity on such a scale, and the absence of a narrative or mythological pretext. The daring aspect in the expression of desire is found again in embraces (The Sin) or erotic playfulness (Nymphs Playing), rare subjects, for marble is considered too serious, too costly, for libertine themes, which are reserved for “little bronzes”. The artist doesn’t hesitate to demonstrate a certain virtuousity; Illusion Sister of Icarus or The Benedictions defy gravity with their apparent disequilibrium, while he expresses his pictorial tendancies in works like The Earth and the Moon.