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Auguste Rodin, ‘Hand’

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Hand by Auguste Rodin.

The Man behind the Sculptures

Born in Paris on November 12, 1840 as François-Auguste-René Rodin, he is widely regarded as the pioneer of modern sculpture. He began developing his creative talents from a young age. Due to poor vision Rodin faced severe setbacks in his education. Academically he was not able to perform but he developed a keen sense of art as he would sketch frequently. What was a weakness became a strength and he began and taking art courses. He was deeply dejected when he was denied admission to École des Beaux-Arts thrice.

It was by the mid-1860s that saw his first major work, “Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose” (1863-64). It was duly rejected twice by the Paris Salon due to the inherent realism of the portrait, which departed from classic notions of beauty.  

But it was trip to Italy in 1875, that would be a turning point in his career. As he witnessed  Michelangelo‘s work which would inspire Rodin’s inner artist. The great artist enlightened him to new kinds of possibilities and he returned to Paris with renewed creative vigour.

It was as Rodin entered his 40s, that he was able to really establish his distinct artistic style. His works though acclaimed, were often controversial. A large team assisted him in the final casting of sculptures, Rodin went on to create an array of famous works. These including “The Burghers of Calais,” a public monument made of bronze portraying a moment during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, in 1347. “The Gates of Hell,” an intricate monument partially inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, in 1880. Apart from various sculpted figures, the monument consisted of, the iconic “The Thinker”, in 1988 he was ready with yet another of his controversial pieces – “The Kiss”, which was inspired from the love affair with one of his assistants Camille Claudel.

The Art Work

Title: The Hand of God
Artist: Auguste Rodin
Year: Modelled in clay 1898; cast in bronze 1925
Place of Origin: France
Material: Bronze Casting
Dimensions: 6 3/4 x 17 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches (67.9 x 44.4 x 54.6 cm)
Museum: Rodin MuseumPhiladelphia

This epic piece – “The Hand of God” was modelled by Auguste Rodin and it attempted to compare the art of sculpture to the divine process of creation. Rodin had been deeply inspired by the work and style of Michaelangelo. A right hand emerging from the earth, holds a lump of clay from which two struggling emergent figures are being modelled. Through his creation, Rodin depicts the metaphor of God’s hand, cradling the material, from which male and female emerge. This particular work presents Adam and Eve entwined in fetal positions and emerging from a lump of earth cradled in God’s hand.

There are marble versions of the sculpture by Rodin. The material plays a vital role in the sculpture, Rodin uses both the technical and symbolic aspects of marble.

Rodin died on November 17, 1917, in Meudon, France, passing away months after the death of his partner Rose Beuret. 

The Legacy

Auguste Rodin’s remains one of the most revered collections in the world. Studied, researched and deeply admired by artists, experts, scholars and art connoisseurs, as well as those with an untrained eye his mammoth legacy lives on.

Opened in August 1919, the Rodin Museum in a Paris mansion houses the artist’s studio during his final years.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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