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Sures Excerpt: On Auguste Rodin

The following excerpt is from Part II of an article by Mary Ann Sures in the February and March 1969 issues of The Objectivist, entitled "Metaphysics in Marble." In the article, Sures reviews the history of sculpture and how it has been influenced by philsophical ideas.

By the second half of the nineteenth century, [...] philosophy shattered man's self-confidence. It fashioned a view of man which raised a mixture of disillusionment, doubt and hopelessness to the status of man's essence. That view was given visual expression in the work of Auguste Rodin.

As a characteristic of his work, Rodin introduced an element that had been rare in sculpture since the end of the Middle Ages: human ugliness. His figures combine ugliness with extreme physical discomfort, expressing his subjects' state of mind. His figures are presented in bent, twisted, strained, squatting and huddled positions; musculature is distorted; faces are left unfinished. The surfaces of the material, usually bronze, are highly polished, but beneath the sheen one can distinguish uneven ridges and hollows that make the skin texture look broken and unhealthy.

She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker's Beautiful Wife is the seated figure of an old, naked woman, with gnarled limbs, sagging skin and shrunken breasts. Her sharp, thin shoulder blades protrude from her wasted back; one arm is drawn behind her, with the hand open, palm out, fingers outstreched, as if she is repelled by her hideous appearance and cannot bring herself to touch her own body. [....]

One of Rodin's most famous and popular works, The Thinker, sums up his view of man's wretched state. The figure is seated, hunched over in a position that combines strain and limpness. The muscles in his arms, legs and toes are knotted and cramped. The size and development of his body indicate that it was once powerful and energetic, but is now exhausted. His external, physical state reveals his inner strain: the strain of engaging in mental activity.

All emphasis was in the original. Omissions from the text are shown with bracketed ellipses. All other punctuation and spelling is from the original.


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