There are always so many exhibitions on in London that I never feel like I take advantage of everything on offer. I almost missed 'Rodin and the art of ancient Greece' at the British Museum but I am so glad that I went. My first degree was in Classics and Ancient History and I was obsessed with the British Museum as a child so it was lovely to read about Auguste Rodin having similar experiences viewing the Parthenon marbles almost a hundred years before, in 1911.
[The goddessses'] pose is so serence, so majestic, that they seem to participate in something grand that we do not see. Over them reigns, in effect, the great mystery: immaterial, eternal Reason obeyed by all Nature."
Auguste Rodin, Pallas (Athena) with the Parthenon (1896)
The first piece I encountered as I entered the gallery is probably my favourite. It encapsulates so many themes that I love in Rodin's work: Ancient Greek art (of course, and goddesses in particular), assemblage, the juxtaposition of rough and perfect forms. This sculpture is also a witty reimagining of Athena's miraculous birth from Zeus' skull after he swallowed her mother whole. In this version, the Parthenon bursts from her head and literally becomes her brainchild. The model was Marianna Russell. Assemblage is the bringing together of different objects, either whole or fragments and using them to create new compositions or meanings, somewhat like 3D collage. Rodin would sometimes combine casts from antiquities with his own work making entirely new creations. This is a way of working that I would love to experiment with while I am at university.
The Kiss (1888)
I had not realised that plaster casts have not always been considered to be poor replicas. In the 19th century, it was apparently common for sculptors to exhibit new works as plaster casts which would be copied in marble or bronze once a buyer had requested it. Some jewellery designers to this today with immaculate CAD renderings but I feel like something is lost in translation with this - though I am now tempted to try making some mock-pieces in plated brass and synthetic stones so I do not have to wait for commissions/ winning the lottery to create some extravagant work.
I intended my art to express the spectrum of emotions, from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of agony.. The body is a cast that bears the imprint of our passions.
Thought (1895) and Camille Claudel (1884) by unknown photographer.
This piece does look a bit odd at first glance but I wanted to include is as the head is modelled on the sculptor Camille Claudel who was Rodin's studio assistant, protégé and lover. "It was originally called Thought Emerging from Matter perhaps a reference to the ancient idea that artists had an inner vision of the subject of their art. They alone had the capacity to release this image from the unworked block of stone." Words taken from the British Museum sign. This work was carved by Victor Peter but many of Rodin's pieces were worked on by Camille, the craftswoman whose name is barely recognised today. I feel like I should do an separate post entirely about her.
That's all for now!