repercussions: the esoterics of bronze

The art world divided into warring and acrimonious factions over Auguste Rodin’s “Balzac” was first exhibited as a full size plaster version of the statue shown to the public at he Salon of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1898.Because of its abstraction, it was met with outrage, disbelief, and ridicule, and as a result the literary society refused to accept it.It seems that they had been hoping for a more polished and sedate depiction of Balzac, and Rodin felt more inclined to depict the ferocity of mind and the exhaustion of intense thought that might have shown on Balzac as he worked on his novels.Rodin bizarre and offensive in his use of extreme emotionalism and departure from accepted standards of beauty

"Although Balzac did wear the famous robe while working, the lack of emphasis on his body focusses attention on his face and the unruly shock of hair. Rodin attempts to convey Balzac's genius by depicting the deep-set visionary eyes. " Read More:

The Balzac was a revelation, but sparked so much controversy that it ended Rodin’s desire to take on public monuments. A visiting Oscar Wilde wrote about the piece: “The leonine head of a fallen angel, with a dressing gown. The head is gorgeous, the dressing gown an entirely unshaped cone of white plaster. People howl with rage over it.” Read More:

Aleister Crowley: Rodin told me how he had conceived his Balzac. He had armed himself with all the documents; and they had reduced him to despair. (Let me say at once that Rodin was not a man, but a god. He had no intellect in the true sense of the word; his was a virility so superabundant that it constantly overflowed into the creation of vibrating visions. Naively enough, I haunted him in order to extract first-hand information about art from the fountain head. I have never met anyone — white, black, brown, yellow, pink or spot-blue — who was so completely ignorant of art as Auguste Rodin! At his best he would stammer out that nature was the great teacher or some equally puerile platitude. The books on art attributed to him are of course the compilation of journalists.)

He was seized with a sort of rage of destruction, abandoned his pathetically pedantic programme. Filled with the sublime synthesis of the data which had failed to convey a concrete impression to his mind, he set to work and produced the existing Balzac. This consequently bore no relation to the incidents of Balzac’s personal appearance at any given period. These things are only veils. Shakespeare would still have been Shakespeare if someone had thrown sulphuric acid in his face. The real Balzac is the writer of the Comédie Humaine; and what Rodin has done is to suggest this spiritual abstraction through the medium of form. Read More:

"In 1908, Steichen photographed the plaster of Rodin's sculpture of Honore de Balzac in the open air, by the light of the moon, making several exposures as long as an hour each. In "Balzac, The Silhouette--4 A.M.," the moonlight has transformed the plaster into a monumental phantom rising above the brooding nocturnal landscape. Steichen recalled that, when he presented his finished prints to Rodin, the elated sculptor exclaimed, "You will make the world understand my Balzac through your pictures."---Read More: image:

What Rodin had done in fragmenting his sculpture and liberating it from the yoke of an academic theme was to pave the way for the emergence of a new era of sculptures; without a true subject, these works instead focused on the ‘harmony’ and ‘plastic rhythm’ of their elements. His focus on dynamic poses, which grew with his academic work until it became the ultimate, dominant focus of his later works, had predicated this emergence. We can see then, that the ‘sketchy’ quality of his academic works, such as the The Burghers of Calais and Monument to Honoré de Balzac, and the subsequent fragmentary style which focused all attention on his figures’ poses, proves that at the end of his career, Rodin had, in all effects and purposes, become an Impressionist sculptor. As the Impressionists painters had brought about a new era of painting, so too would Rodin do the same for sculpture: His redefinition of what was considered art would propel sculpture into the modern age. Read More: a

Nude Balzac. "The strength of the pose is heightened with the curvature of the figure’s back, with the rear foot seemingly to pushing off in tandem with a contortion of the body. Furthermore, the figure’s left shoulder dips down, creating a slight imbalance throughout the figure, which in turn gives a sense that an impending movement will soon occur to lead to the recovery of that balance. These features then, all combine to form a pose that is forceful, yet dynamic and spontaneous throughout - a clear departure from rigid academic poses - and truly impresses upon us the vigor, vitality, and confidence of Balzac. With Nude Honoré de Balzac with Folded Arms, Rodin had demonstrated his mastery of utilizing the whole of the body, both the upper and lower parts of his figure, to best convey the impression of his subject." Read More:

Consider the Balzac sculpture. “Rodin engulfs the Balzac body within a single gesture which becomes a representation of the subject’s will. Wrapping his gown around him, the figure makes his writer’s body through that momentary, ephemeral arrangement of surface; he molds his own flesh into a columnar support as though his genius, concentrated into the contracted features of his face, were being held aloft by a single act of determination. “ “Rodin’s secretary, Rilke, compared the head to “those balls that dance on jets of water.” (Krauss)

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Through a series of studies, which represented a variety of approaches to capture Balzac’s appearance and character, he evolved a more general statemen

�� The final Balzac, whether or not it is a success as pure sculptural form, is perhaps the closest approximation of nineteenth-century sculpture to pure abstract symbol.” (Krauss) Read More:

So far so good. Then the public came. “A block of salt caught in a shower,” “a seal,” “a bag of plaster,” “a snowman in a bathrobe whose empty sleeve suggests a strait jacket” were some of the comments. The Societe des Gens de Lettres turned the statue down.

“I got a broadside like the one you got when it was fashionable to laugh at your invention of putting the air into your landscapes,” Rodin wrote to Monet. Baudelaire praised the depiction of Balzac as “the creature of a civilization and of all its battles, ambition and rages.” Rilke said Balzac’s body showed the pride and arrogance of creation, its vertigo and drunkenness. Offers came from private collectors, a public subscription was started to buy the “Balzac,” a petition was signed by Toulouse-Lautrec, Maillol, Clemenceau, Debussy, Monet and Anatole France, but not by Zola whose “J’Accuse” came out the same year (Rodin had not joined in the Dreyfus campaign).

The scandal was perhaps inevitable, but 1898, with the Dreyfus affair and with parliamentary elections, was an edgy year: Rodin’s statue subverted the conventional view of greatness and might, people thought, lead to such untoward acts as refusing to pay taxes and even revolution.Read More:

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