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Discover new aspects of a French master: Rodin’s drawings
22 September, 2016
This autumn, a major exhibition at the SMK homes in on Auguste Rodin and his works on paper. The exhibition organized in collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris, features works from there and The Royal Collection of Graphic Art at the SMK. Several have never been on public display in Denmark before.
The history of sculpture can be said to fall into two chapters: before and after Rodin. In the late nineteenth century, the French artist Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) reinvented sculpture. Before this point, sculptures were mostly static, monumental and idealised figures raised on pedestals, but Rodin set sculpture free, introducing dynamic and passionate human figures that interacted directly with the space around them.
Today, Rodin is best known for sculptures such as The Kiss and The Thinker. However, he was also a prolific and multi-faceted draughtsman who explored the wide-ranging potential of paper as a medium. His drawings allowed Rodin to experiment freely and spontaneously in ways that were not possible in the large-scale sculptures. He transferred the lessons learned through these drawings to his work with clay and stone.
Rodin himself said: “It is very simple. My drawings are the key to my work. I began with drawing: I have never stopped drawing.”
Thousands of works on paper by Rodin’s hand still exist today. His drawings are often rapidly executed, with lines that sweep across the paper – which might sometimes be irregular scraps, napkins or ticket stubs. He would later continue working on these pieces, using media such as watercolour and gouache. He was interested in the female form in motion, and it was not unusual for female nude models to walk around his studio while he drew them. This keen interest in the body – in motion, in states of sexual ecstasy, in dance, etc. – is at the heart of the exhibition Fleeting Moments – Drawings by Auguste Rodin, which the SMK will show from September onwards.
The drawings in this exhibition cover a wide range of themes. From “vase-like” women to Cambodian dancers to the so-called black drawings that Rodin created during his many years of working on The Gates of Hell, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. In addition to this, the exhibition shows a range of works that take their starting point in Rodin’s “private album”. He used this album to store particularly erotic – and, hence, provocative – drawings of masturbating women and other motifs that he only showed to select guests.
The exhibition features 87 drawings and six sculptures. The selection includes several drawings that have never before been on public view in Denmark, where the last major exhibition of Rodin’s drawings took place in 1930.