The J. Wayne Stark Galleries is exhibiting works from master sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) now through Dec. 17.
Rodin, perhaps best known for “The Thinker” and “The Gates of Hell,” was a French artist who is generally considered to be one of the first modern sculptors, says Catherine Hastedt, director of Texas A&M University Art Galleries Department.
“He was not appreciated by the academic world during his lifetime because of his departure from typical themes of mythology and allegory,” Hastedt notes. “Instead he believed in modeling the human body with realism and that a person’s character could be expressed through their physicality. It was not until the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris that he was recognized as a world-renowned artist.”
The exhibition, “Rodin: Portraits of a Lifetime,” underwritten by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in Los Angeles, explores the portraiture work that was the main source of income for Rodin during his life, Hastedt says, adding that her favorite piece in the exhibit is “Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose.”
“This piece was originally sculpted in clay as a full head but the back of the clay froze in Rodin’s studio and broke off,” she explains. “Rodin was intrigued by the shape of what was left and cast it as a mask. This was an entirely new thing in the art world and it caused some uproar, not only because it was a mask, but also because the face was not aesthetically perfect.”
Another piece, titled “The Creator,” is actually part of “The Gates of Hell,” a work that depicts a scene from Dante’s The Inferno. “The Creator” depicts a woman whispering into the ear of an elderly bearded man. The Cantor Foundation writes that Rodin often spoke about the creative act, likening it to a God-like activity, and used this female personification of inspiration a number of times. Since the man is depicted with Rodin’s famous beard, the piece is thought to be a self-portrait.
Hastedt notes the Rodin exhibition is a rare and valuable opportunity for people to view works from one of the world’s most treasured sculptors. “Exhibitions of this caliber, especially sculpture exhibitions, are very expensive. We are grateful to the Cantor Foundation for making it possible to bring this to Texas A&M. Faculty, staff and students are awed that they can see original Rodin sculptures that normally they would have to travel across the country or over to France to appreciate.”
Admission to the galleries is free. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tours are available by request at 979-845-6081.
The galleries will be closed for Thanksgiving weekend.