Psychology fascinates me. When I’m not writing, working or studying art, I’m reading about psychology. And in one of my psych books I found the following description of a sculpture:
“The body flexed to the point of pain produces the most compelling planes and twists. . . Rodin preferred his models to be hurting physically while he worked their forms in pencil or stone.”
Whoa! Having spent so much time with fashion and dance, where we try to create an illusion of beauty, even perfection, the thought of purposfully positioning your model in a pose of wounded discomfort is an interesting idea.
Rodin was a trail blazer. Because his sculptures didn’t reflect mythology or history, he was put down by the leaders of his time. Pardon the pun, but someone has to break the mold. Isn’t that what art is?
One of Rodin’s models was Camille Claudel. A sculptor in her own right. Claudel was committed to a mental institution for 30 years after her affair with Rodin ended. Is her work the face of madness? I don’t know, some claim she was sane, or at least sane when she was working. Considering the mental health practices of the late 1800s, I don’t know if her commitment was treatment or torture.
Rodin was famous for one sculpture, a head that fell on the floor and became essentially “wounded.” He left it that way, he liked it half-destroyed. In addition, he wanted to capture the emotional state of his subject. Many of his sculptures, like Crouching Woman, appear to be just a moment in time. A quick gesture. They leave me wondering how long the poor girl had to stay like that.
But for me, this is a lesson for my own artwork. I’m constantly trying to capture feminine strength, dignity and perseverance. Based on Rodin’s lessons, I think I’ll throw in a little more discomfort, pain and vulnerability in the future.