RODIN: THE SHAPE OF GENIUS by Ruth Butler

RODIN: THE SHAPE OF GENIUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An insightful life of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) that's based on many previously unpublished letters and a fresh interpretation of familiar facts. Butler (Art/UMass at Boston) is especially perceptive about Rodin's relationships--how they inspired, energized, and influenced his art--particularly his relations with the women to whom he claimed he ``owed everything'': his sister, who died when he was 21; his companion of 51 years, Rose Beuret, whom his biographer, Judith Cladel, arranged for him to marry when they were both near death; Camille Claudel, the student whom he reputedly drove mad; wealthy married women who commissioned portraits; and dozens of models who inspired and posed for his thousands of frenetic erotic drawings. Returning to France from Brussels, where he'd began his career, Rodin stopped in Florence, where he encountered the grandeur of Michelangelo and was liberated from the Grecian academic style that prevailed in Paris. This new, more natural, and somewhat vulgar style, as well as the artist's own demanding nature, accounted for his alienation from the centers of power in the artistic community, especially from the Salon system. Nonetheless, in an age of ``statuemania,'' of nationalism and public art, Rodin created major icons: The Kiss, The Thinker, The Burghers of Calais, and The Gate of Hell, the sublime portals based on Dante and cast for a museum that was never built. Butler's special strengths are in analyzing the politics of the artistic community and the art of politics; the expensive and collaborative nature of sculpture (the space, technology, and immense amount of assistance that Rodin required); Rodin's entrepreneurial dimension; his neglect of his illegitimate son; his fame abroad (Rilke wrote his first biography) but his equivocal position in France; and his loneliness. Like Rodin's art: simplified but rounded; monumental. (Two hundred photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1993
ISBN: 0-300-05400-9
Page count: 566pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993




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