In 1893 Rodin began to collect Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, eventually accumulating over six thousand marble and bronze fragments, as well as vessels and other figurines in terracotta or stone. The Brooklyn Museum’s own Torso of Aphrodite and Torso of a Boy, which are included in Rodin: The Body in Bronze, are very similar to the kinds of ancient fragments he favored.
Rodin saw a precedent for his own exploration of the evocative human form in the lifelike modeling of ancient Greek sculptors and was particularly inspired by fragmentary sculptures he sketched at the Louvre, like the Venus de Milo or the Winged Victory of Samothrace. To him, such works were powerfully expressive and self-sufficient, even in their partial state. Rodin’s own numerous headless, armless figures, sometimes roughly modeled and retaining the marks and accidents inherent to the sculpting and casting process, challenged prevailing sculptural standards and were often criticized as “unfinished.” But he considered them complete, independent works of art, believing that a part could convey the emotive essence of a larger whole.
This radical reassessment of the meaning and form of sculpture, based in his study of antiquity, is fundamental to Rodin’s legacy as the first modern sculptor.
Posted by Lisa Small