Menzies Art Brands

Head of Art's Choice | Auguste Rodin


There is no greater sculptor in the history of art than Auguste Rodin. He is one of those artists where the actual quality of his work has been obscured by his fame. Like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can, his Thinker is an icon and yet it is now so well known that it has become impossible to evaluate as an artwork in its own right.

Rodin was active at the very height of French art. His contemporaries were the Impressionists and his career spanned the magnificent era of Manet, Cézanne and Matisse. Curiously, his work is fundamentally at variance with Impressionism so that although he is often lumped together with the heroes of French Painting his work does not really bear comparison with the Impressionists and their followers.

Rodin was a national figure in his own lifetime and by the time he died in 1917 he was internationally famous. Nowadays the museum that guards his legacy is one of the most popular destinations for any visitor to Paris. The Museum also administers the production of the sculptures that are cast from original moulds and then sold to collectors. Many of the great Rodin Bronzes currently in circulation, including the famous Balzac, on permanent display at the National Gallery of Victoria, were cast since 1917. Prices for sculpture vary depending on the size and popularity of the composition as well as the date, so that, in general terms a piece created, ie carved and modelled by the artist with his own hands, might be considered the most valuable. Most Rodin bronzes were cast some time after they were modelled, but a premium might be paid for a cast made within a short interval of the modelling. The next level, in terms of price, might be items cast during the artist’s lifetime, ie in Rodin’s case, before 1917. Another classification would be for any items cast since then, although in Rodin’s case there would appear to be further divisions of pricing depending on when the piece was cast.

Since the later casts were all made under the watchful eye of the Estate, prices have always been high. Recently cast items are of impeccable quality, and I have no reason to doubt that they are as good if not better than earlier ones. While on display in our Melbourne gallery, La Femme accroupie, grand modèle avec une terrasse plus haute glowed in the late afternoon sunlight and the concentrated physicality and emotional power of the object are quite extraordinary when you get up close and personal with it. It has the power, as much as any cast of any era, to communicate Rodin’s message 95 years after his death.

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